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The Lakeland Times | Minocqua, Wisc.

Jim Tait 02/01-02/28/17

home : opinions : opinions July 22, 2017

5/19/2017 7:29:00 AM
Due process in the cross hairs

It's time for the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee to do its job and make a decision regarding the conditional use permit applied for by Marshfield Clinic to construct a hospital in Minocqua.

The matter was yanked from the committee's agenda once again this week, and a decision postponed, ostensibly so zoning committee members could have more time to review supplemental information about the CUP application.

But the committee has already had plenty of time, and now it is bordering on negligence, if it hasn't already crossed the property boundary into irresponsibility.

This newspaper has not taken a position on the clinic's bid to build a hospital in Minocqua, and we don't intend to. But everyone - both those supporting the CUP application, those opposed to it, and those undecided - deserve to know what the panel's decision is.

This is obviously a matter of public concern, for the outcome will likely impact health care significantly in the Lakeland area for a long time. Thus it does not serve Marshfield Clinic well for the committee to drag out a decision; it does not serve Ascension well, either; most of all, it does not serve the people of the Lakeland area.

This is, after all, a hospital we are talking about. While it's an important issue, it does not pose an immediately urgent threat that requires stalling and obvious roadblocks, not to mention feet-dragging and hand wringing, as a mine might, or a nuclear waste site.

Indeed, the committee pleads it needs extra time to review additional information, but the information involves mainly technical matters that do not and should not affect the substance of the final decision itself. It sounds like an excuse.

This is especially so given that the committee's decision almost certainly will not be the last word on the CUP. Appeals will likely follow from whichever side loses, and the committee's delay only drags out a bad situation even longer.

It is said, most often with great truth, that justice delayed is justice denied. Let us paraphrase the situation this way: Due process delayed is due process denied. The way the committee is dragging its feet almost feels like discrimination against Marshfield.

How else to read it? The facts are in; and the committee should do its job and make a decision based on those facts, whatever it is. It certainly didn't take the town of Minocqua this long to reach a conclusion.

Very clearly, the Lakeland area is divided over this CUP application, and the committee's indecision - or lack of interest in making its decision - is only prolonging and intensifying those divisions. A decision is necessary for the community to begin to come together again.

A public hearing was held April 27, after which the committee could not make up its mind, and it could not make up its mind yet again after an early May meeting. Now we have another postponement.

Either the committee is deliberately engaging in a dereliction of its duty, or it is incompetent. Finally, since the issue of incompetence has been raised, we wonder what role, if any, corporation counsel Brian Desmond has had in these delays, and whether any of the stalling tactics are emanating from his office. It is a question every citizen of Oneida County should want answered.

The bottom line is, a hearing has been held; the pertinent information has been submitted; the committee's questions have been answered.

A decision should be made now, and the process should go on from there.

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