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Beloit City Council Pushes Back Ordinance Vote After Lengthy Discussion

The Beloit City Council heard from many residents and Beloit Health System workers as they discussed an amendment to an ordinance that would adjust the qualifications for building zoning, and would change the category medical facilities are in.

The Beloit Health System argued that the ordinance would bring for-profit healthcare providers to the area, which will have a negative impact on them, and also restricts the health system from expanding their sites. The plan commission approved the ordinance repeal 4-3 on August 18. At least four facilities would become nonconforming conditional uses that are currently permitted uses. Beloit Health System is the largest employer in the community.

One portion of the repeal, section 14, states that an outdated ordinance for rest or nursing homes would be appealed. The health system has a much higher rate of medicare and medicaid patients than other systems, and despite the cancer center recently constructed not meeting the qualifications, the health system says they did not seek special treatment.

Nom O’Donald, vice president of BHS, said that the core of the system could be affected by the zoning proposal. One argument in favor of the ordinance states that the for-profit providers can provide high quality services. After the public hearing session, council president Clinton Anderson made it clear that the discussion wasn’t about the opinions of any companies, but rather about the ordinance. Councilor Mark Preuschl expressed his concerns and said he was on the planning committee, while councilor Kevin Leavy discussed laying it over to the next meeting in order to have more discussion. Leavy said that his fear was if the council moved forward, that they received a lot of information and they need time to digest it and they are rushing the process.

City Manager Lori Curtis Luther said that there was a misunderstanding and it was important to distinguish that it is not legally permissible for the city council or staff to prohibit a use from coming to the City of Beloit.

“We are obligated under law to provide appropriate zoning locations for all uses. Even uses that we may find disagreeable or we may we have moral apprehension towards”. Luther said the law is very clear in terms of zoning, and providing for all uses, permitted, conditional or prohibited. “They cannot be prohibited in all areas... Staff’s position is not to harm… not trying in any way to impact the local health system, that we are a strong partner with, nor are we trying to advocate for OrthoIllinois… an option to prevent a provider from coming to the City of Beloit is NOT an option that is on the table… that has not been clear… it could be perceived that the question this evening is whether or not to allow one particular company to come to the City of Beloit.”

It was then discussed that it was believed by the planning commission that there should be a public hearing on those amendments alone. It was then recommended that the council lay over the vote, and gauge proper public feedback before making the decision. The motion carried and the discussion was tabled for now with September 20 as the proposed date.

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