RHINELANDER - After a year of hearings, arguments, and appeals, Marshfield Clinic finally got what it wanted on Thursday afternoon.
The Oneida County Board of Adjustment granted a permit for Marshfield Clinic to build a 12-bed, $35 million hospital in Minocqua.
Marshfield Clinic Regional Medical Director Dr. William Melms said construction would likely begin in spring.
"We are absolutely elated with the decision. We are very pleased," Melms said after the meeting.
After six hours of arguments and a 4-1 vote in Marshfield Clinic's favor, the Board of Adjustment reversed a June ruling by the county's Planning and Development Committee.
"It's hard to imagine that the establishment, maintenance, or operation of a hospital would be detrimental or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort, and all the rest of that," said Board of Adjustment Chairman Harland Lee.
Ascension, which owns nearby Howard Young Medical Center (HYMC), fought Marshfield Clinic's plans each step of the way.
HYMC President Sandy Anderson turned down an interview after the hearing, but issued a statement.
"We are disappointed with the decision of the Oneida County Board of Adjustment and view the proposed Conditional Use Permit as unnecessary and a duplication of healthcare services provided to the community," she said.
The only board member to vote against Marshfield Clinic's permit, Phil Albert, seemed to agree.
"My feeling is there would be detrimental impacts that could be generated, would be generated, by a second hospital in the Lakeland area," Albert said. "There would be destabilizing--if there hasn't been already--of the healthcare provided here in the Lakeland community."
But four of the five board members agreed with Marshfield Clinic's argument.
"How can a hospital be bad for a community? How's that even possible for a hospital to be bad for a community?" Marshfield Clinic attorney John Giftos asked rhetorically. "That seems like a good thing. That's a second hospital for the town. It's a new hospital for the town. It adds jobs. It adds care."
The permit comes with conditions. Marshfield Clinic won't be allowed to build a helipad at the new hospital. It will also need to route the majority of traffic off Highway 70, not Townline Road, which serves as the clinic's current main entrance.
HYMC and Ascension have one option for appeal left. They could file a suit in Oneida County Circuit Court. HYMC gave no indication whether that move could be coming.
"We will need to examine this decision internally before making any decision about future action," Anderson said in the statement.