St. Luke’s drops MOB appeal
-St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center Attorney Michael
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
After a month of private mediation sessions with county
officials, representatives from St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center and
Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth have agreed to drop their appeals
surrounding the hospital’s plans to build a medical office building
south of Ketchum.
Notes of the mediations produced by the parties’ lawyers
state that St. Luke’s officials will reapply to the county planning and
zoning commission with modified plans to build the controversial office
The P&Z denied initial plans for a 38,000-square-foot
building last year. St. Luke’s appealed the denial to the county
commissioners and Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth appealed a
portion of the application the P&Z had approved.
A new application by St. Luke’s would require at least
one additional public hearing before the P&Z.
On a two-to-zero vote Monday with Commissioner Sarah
Michael absent, the board of commissioners agreed to conclude the
mediation sessions and allow the appeals to be withdrawn. The board also
agreed to deem any new application by St. Luke’s a "priority
matter" and to consider adopting a county mediation ordinance.
County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas said that even
though an Idaho law passed in July already governs mediation, county
ordinances need an equivalent to the law to be "consistent."
It is not yet known when St. Luke’s plans to reapply for
a permit. Lawyers’ notes say that will happen at a "later
date." St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center CEO Jon Moses was not
available for comment.
The meeting Monday focused on the mediation process,
rather than planning issues surrounding the office building.
Some members of the public, including Jay Coleman, an
ex-P&Z commissioner, were concerned about elected officials’ having
attended the closed-door mediation sessions when the officials may be
called upon to vote on St. Luke’s future application. Coleman questioned
whether unbiased consideration of St. Luke’s plans would be possible if
the elected officials helped create the plans.
"I don’t know the extent of your input" during
the mediation, Coleman told Commissioner Dennis Wright. "It could be
argued you are at the same time both judge and jury."
Coleman "wondered" if Wright should recuse
himself from considering a future application.
Wright said he wouldn’t.
Commissioner Mary Ann Mix said the "nature" of
all mediation is to be closed to the public so that all involved feel free
to discuss their thoughts.
Bob Werth, who facilitated the mediation, attempted to
assuage concerns of impropriety.
"The attorneys [for St. Luke’s, Smart Growth and
the county] were wonderful at working to protect the public," he
That protection appears to involve the 10 pages of notes
the attorneys created after the four mediation sessions that lasted from
two to eight hours each.
"By keeping this record," the first paragraph of
the notes states, "the group intended to provide the public with
information to allow for informed participation at future public
When asked how the public can determine whether the notes
are complete and accurate, county attorney Thomas said, "You sort of
have to rely on the integrity of people involved."
"Trust us," said St. Luke’s attorney Michael