The Marietta-based health care firm must now pass a vote by the Holly Springs City Council before going through with their plans to use 62 acres of land near the intersection of Sixes Road and Interstate 575 to construct several health care facilities.
Richard Calhoun, a Marietta attorney hired by WellStar, presented the zoning commission with the specifics of his company’s plans.
WellStar hopes to build a health park, 100-bed hospital and hospice facility to service Cherokee County. The health park, a facility with on-site imaging, physical therapy and labs, would come first with the hospital following — likely within the next seven to 10 years. The hospice facility would come “whenever the community has the need,” Calhoun said.
The commission approved WellStar’s request with the conditions that there would be regulations on staffing and an eight-story limit to the hospital.
Calhoun and company met with strong opposition Thursday night from concerned potential neighbors of the facilities and Northside Cherokee, a competition hospital which is constructing a new hospital just a few miles away from WellStar’s proposed facilities.
Both WellStar and Northside’s representatives were given 10 clocked minutes to plead their cases to the commission. And each came well-prepared for battle, with poster-sized illustrations, words and slideshow presentations.
Northside owns the only hospital in Cherokee County, an 84-bed facility which has the task of serving the county’s more than 200,000 residents. The present facility, located in northern Canton, is in the process of moving operations to the new location, which will also be an 84-bed hospital at Exit 19 of Interstate 575.
Calhoun argued that Northside Cherokee’s 84 beds aren’t enough to serve the county.
That number only leaves the community with a hospital bed for one out of every three people, whereas other counties like Cobb have more than one for each citizen, Calhoun said.
Don Hausfeld, speaking for Northside, argued that in addition to constructing their new facility, they also have a vested interest at the site of WellStar’s proposed site. Hausfeld is working on the new hospital project for Northside.
“We are located here at Sixes Road and 575,” Hausfeld said. “We have owned property there since 1999 and we, as an adjacent property owner, have a vested interest in this. We’ve been working there for a long time and have substantial investment not only at that location but in Cherokee County as a whole.”
Holly Springs residents were also allowed time to speak to the planning and zoning commission to voice their concerns.
Several Sixes Road area residents expressed their worry that the new hospital and other facilities could lead to traffic congestion.
“Is it going to take us 20-30 minutes to get to work now?,” one neighbor asked. “We want to see the studies they (WellStar) have done on that.”
Hausfeld too called for a study of the potential traffic issues.
“There’s not been a traffic study done and we’re talking about 10 to 15 years down the road,” Hausfeld said. “With the population growth, other development along Sixes Road and other development in the area, is there tangible evidence that in 10 or 15 years that there won’t be stacking up past the entrance, where you can’t get out?”
John Weigand, vice chairman of Holly Springs’ planning and zoning commission, voiced concern that Northside’s issues with WellStar building facilities off Sixes Road could be related to their fear of the coming competition.
The Holly Springs City Council will hear the case in a work session Monday and vote on the issue on March 18, said Rob Logan, Holly Springs City Manager.