Commission to pen letter in opposition of WellStar, rezoning
by Joshua Sharpe
jsharpe@mdjonline.com
March 07, 2013 12:00 AM | 1931 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners entered the debate on WellStar’s plans to expand in Holly Springs Tuesday by resolving unanimously to pen a letter to the city, suggesting the council deny the company’s request to rezone a plot of land at the intersection of Interstate 575 and Sixes Road.

The commission also voted unanimously to send a resolution to Holly Springs asking the council to consider not rezoning a piece of land at Marble Quarry Road for potential commercial uses.

Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens suggested the show of opposition to WellStar’s plan to rezone the 62-acre plot to construct health care facilities and was chosen to write the letter, which he will address to Holly Springs Mayor Tim Downing and the City Council.

Ahrens and other commission members laid out some of their concerns with the project, stating that they were still not clear on the plans for the property and thought the proposed facilities could cause traffic issues. These traffic issues could likely be worsened by the plot’s close proximity to the county’s new aquatic center.

The board also agreed that the project should be evaluated by the Atlanta Regional Commission to determine its potential impact on the greater region.

During the board’s discussion on the matter, Ahrens posed the question to the panel, “Do we support WellStar’s competitor, Northside Cherokee?”

Members of the commission agreed that Northside Cherokee, who has for years operated Cherokee County’s only hospital, has shown a dedication and commitment to the county.

“Their commitment to the county is evident,” Ahrens said.

District 4 Commissioner Jason Nelms questioned whether the board could “Make a statement for Northside.”

But, after some discussion and a recommendation from County Attorney Angie Davis, the board decided to leave Northside Cherokee out of the discussion and their actions as a board.

WellStar spokesperson Keith Bowermaster said Wednesday that WellStar is committed to the community.

“We are, and have long been, the preferred health care provider for Cherokee County residents. The proposed WellStar project at the intersection of Sixes Road and I-575 is another example of that commitment,” Bowermaster said in a release from the health care provider.

Bowermaster also addressed the commission’s suggestion that the ARC should be contacted.

“Clearance from the Atlanta Regional Commission has been received,” the WellStar spokesperson said. “And a regional impact study is not required.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners echoed Ahrens’ concerns about WellStar’s plans, citing WellStar’s Letter of Intent filed with the Georgia Department of Community Health in which the company said it wished to construct a free-standing emergency facility on the plot.

Commissioner Raymond Gunnin said this idea was a “nightmare” and added that, should it happen, he doesn’t like the idea that WellStar might admit patients from their ER in Holly Springs to hospitals in other counties.

“They haven’t said whether or not folks will be shipped to Cobb County,” Gunnin said.

It was decided that in spite of their individual feelings for Northside Cherokee that there were too many looming questions on what would happen if WellStar were allowed to construct on the 62-acres plot in Holly Springs.

“We don’t want to say we’re against WellStar or for Northside,” Ahrens said.

The board’s letter to the Holly Springs mayor was just the first of two suggestions the commission agreed to make to the city.

Harry Johnston, District 1 commissioner, was also charged with drafting a formal resolution to the Holly Springs City Council asking that the council strike down a request to rezone property at 3095 Marble Quarry Road for commercial use.

“We think that corridor should remain more residential,” Johnston said. “We don’t object to the council annexing the land. But, we feel that land should remain zoned as Office and Institutional and not allow any businesses that can’t operate in that category.”

Also in the meeting, County Manager Jerry Cooper announced that the county’s new aquatic center will be named by Northside Cherokee. During the first year of operations, Cooper explained, there will be a shortfall in funds for the center and Northside Cherokee has agreed to pick up the slack at a rate of more than $50,000 for the naming rights.
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