Oneida County delays Cassian adolescent recovery center CUP decision again

Proposed facility on hold as more information sought

By Eileen Persike

MMC Staff

RHINELANDER – For the second time in less than a month, the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee met to discuss a conditional use permit (CUP) application for an adolescent recovery and wellness center in the Town of Cassian north of Tomahawk.

For the second time in less than a month, the meeting ended with no decision.

The Oneida County Board room was full last week as the Planning and Development Committee discussed the conditional use permit sought by the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council to build an adolescent recovery center in the Town of Cassian north of Tomahawk. MMC photos.

The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC), a consortium of 12 tribal nations in Wisconsin and Michigan, is seeking the CUP to build a 36-bed residential facility on 280 acres it purchased last year. It would serve youth ages 13 to 17 who suffer from substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health conditions, using “cultural-centric practices.”

The Cassian Town Board opposes the facility and hired an attorney to help fight the CUP. At a Dec. 28 committee meeting, dozens of people spoke for and against construction of the facility, which led to questions among the Planning and Development Committee. They postponed a decision that night to get those questions answered, which is what took the majority of the two-hour meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 17.

A concern expressed by the town and several residents was the facility would use all the hard-to-find groundwater in the area, with some stating their wells were drilled into the bedrock.

Two project managers working for GLITC addressed the committee. Based on information gathered on adjacent properties’ wells, they said the facility would not negatively impact the groundwater, and that wells in four adjacent properties had average flow rates of 10 to 15 gallons per minute and average well depths of about 50 feet.

“Given the size of the property – 280 acres – there would be no impact if multiple wells are placed on site to meet an estimated maximum usage of 25 to 35 gallons per minute,” said Nate Brown, Assistant Project Manager for Greenfire Management Services. “This would be no different than if the initial property had been subdivided into separate residences.”

Rodney Carter, an attorney representing GLITC, standing right, and Nate Brown, Assistant Program Manager for Greenfire Management Services, address questions from the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Planning and Development Committee members also wanted to know about admissions policies, schooling, funding and what services will be required of the town.

GLITC was also asked repeatedly whether it will “deed restrict” the land so it cannot become federal land, exempt from state, county and town control.

“GLITC, as it exists, as it is incorporated and as it will operate, does not meet the criteria of a native nation or individual tribal member because it is a consortium of tribal nations,” GLITC President Shannon Holsey explained to the committee. “So, in that instance it is not applicable. Therefore, there would not even be an effort forward to apply for the land to go into trust, because it’s a moot point, because we are not eligible for it.”

Some inquiries were not answered by GLITC, and its attorney told the committee why.

“I think the concern with the questions that weren’t directly answered is that they go to what is – and I’m uncomfortable saying this – it’s an illegal bias toward my client’s status as a tribal nation or a group of tribal nations,” said attorney Rodney Carter. “Who they admit and how the bills are paid and things like that are questions we can answer today, but quite frankly, I don’t know that the county wants to be asking those questions and basing a decision on any answers we would give to those questions if this were to proceed beyond the deliberations today and had a court reviewing these records.”

During the meeting, GLTIC CEO Bryan Bainbridge said he agreed there was a “racial bias” to the questions. In his defense, committee chair Scott Holewinski told Bainbridge the questions were not an assault.

“What I am doing is asking questions,” Holewinski said. “There’s nothing racial about this with me. You put something in an application, it got brought up, I’m questioning it. Don’t be insulted that I ask you a question to verify what’s going on.”

Afterward, Bainbridge said he is frustrated with the delays.

“We’re being held to a certain set of standards beyond anybody else,” Bainbridge said. “And it’s glaring within the questions, if it’s native or non-native or even referencing another tribe, to me that’s problematic. Of course it’s a little frustrating, and we’ve been going down this road for quite a long time, and I’ve been trying to provide anything and everything I can to the county. I think other people may have just thrown their hands up and quit. But we have a goal, and we set it to build this project, to have it done for our youth, and having our youth in the forefront and in mind the whole time.”

The committee voted to extend the review period to up to 180 days from the day the CUP application was received by Planning and Zoning, which was in October.

Holewinski said the GLITC representatives and the Cassian Town Board should hold a meeting to discuss outstanding issues.

Scroll to Top