Rockford businesses urge city leaders to rezone, exclude abortion clinic

Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 9:44 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Nearly a dozen businesses near Maray Drive in Rockford plead with city leaders Monday night to reconsider zoning regulations that exclude an abortion clinic from opening nearby.

“We’re all very concerned about the negative impacts these factors will have on surrounding businesses,” said Kristina Rose. “We’re strongly concerned about the influx of activists, both for and against abortion, and an increase in the graphic signs and the increase in traffic.”

Kristina Rose and her husband own Carpetland USA in Rockford. They worry increased traffic will clog nearby roads and fill parking spaces that stop customers from shopping inside area stores.

“We didn’t shut down City Market when the very obnoxious protests were going on,” Sara Dady said.

Sara Dady sits on the board for the Winnebago County Citizens for Choice. She calls the argument misleading.

“There’s something called the first amendment,” Dady said. “As business owners, I think it’s important we balance our need to do business with respect for people’s rights to express themselves.”

Business owners cite Maray Drive is zoned as C-2 Limited Commercial District, which they say doesn’t allow for undue traffic congestion or detrimental impacts on neighboring properties. But council members tell 23 News off-camera this doesn’t impact the city’s decision from allowing the abortion clinic to open. It’s because C-2 includes small clinics that offer healthcare-related services.

Using zoning rules to hinder access to abortion services picks up momentum in recent years as an anti-choice strategy on local levels across the country. Since 2013, the National Institute of Reproductive Health says nine cities attempted this. Although, abortion activists don’t think this will happen in Rockford without a major state lawsuit.