BELOIT — The Beloit City Council will consider a zoning change on June 7 that would include a category for ambulatory surgery centers after the fallout from a controversial development proposal that resulted in OrthoIllinois withdrawing its application to build a surgery center in the Gateway Business Park.
The city’s zoning ordinance currently does not include or recognize ambulatory surgery centers, and that distinction was at the heart of the OrthoIllinois proposal that prompted pushback from Beloit Health System related to the lack of clear zoning language. The OrthoIllinois project was proposed to be built at 1350 Gateway Blvd. in the Gateway Business Park.
“Prohibiting Ambulatory Surgery Centers altogether is not an option, and now that one has been proposed, the city is obligated to determine the zoning districts in which they will be allowed,” the city’s notice reads.
The Beloit Planning and Building Services Division originally recommended the OrthoIllinois plan for approval citing the proposed surgery center would be considered a new use. Last November, the Beloit Plan Commission voted 2-2 which denied a conditional use permit for the project after a lengthy back-and-forth between attorneys for both the health system and OrthoIllinois.
The city’s interpretation of a new use drew criticism from Beloit Health System, and the city’s largest employer filed a notice of appeal with the city’s Board of Appeals claiming the facility would be similar to a “mini hospital” rather than an ambulatory surgery center. The issue was never ruled upon by the Board of Appeals and OrthoIllinois withdrew its initial proposal.
The city’s announcement on Thursday said the health system “repeatedly mischaracterized” its stance regarding a proposed new use following health system criticism of alleged bias among city planning staff.
On April 12, OrthoIllinois CEO Don Schreiner confirmed to the Beloit Daily News that OrthoIllinois “remained interested an Ambulatory Surgery Center and are considering our options.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, Beloit Health System CEO Tim McKevett said the health system “remains disappointed with the city’s transparency with the public.”
“Any entity that is allowed any zoning exceptions that offers similar services to a hospital should be held to the same standards, including providing care to residents regardless of their ability to pay, or this will not be in the best interest of the public health of the community,” McKevett said.
McKevett added that the health system was committed to caring for all in Beloit “with the utmost integrity.”
“Our top priority has always been, and always will be, to provide the highest quality and safest care to the patients of this community,” McKevett said. “One of the ways we further this goal is to take care of any patient, regardless of that patient’s ability to pay. BHS provides 24/7, 365 days a year Emergency Room care for the Community. We are always there when we are needed, and our doctors and nurses provide heroic efforts to keep this Community safe.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the health system has cared for over 500 inpatient admissions battling COVID-19; completed 25,000 COVID-19 tests and administered 26,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The plan commission will meet on May 19 to review the zoning amendment followed by the council’s review on June 7.