Holly Springs votes no on WellStar expansion
by Joshua Sharpe and Megan Thornton
jsharpe@cherokeetribune.com
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
March 20, 2013 12:00 AM | 2335 views | 7 7 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOLLY SPRINGS — After weeks of hearing arguments from WellStar Kennestone, Northside Cherokee and concerned residents, the Holly Springs City Council on Monday blocked WellStar’s request to expand operations to the city, as a standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 looked on.

The council voted unanimously Monday with Karen Barnett abstaining to deny a request for a conditional use permit that would have allowed a hospital and hospice facility on the property at the corner of Sixes Road and Interstate 575.

Many attendees at the council meeting wore “Northside” stickers on their shirts in support of the WellStar competitor.

Two requests from WellStar were on the docket for the council’s meeting Monday: a request to rezone a 62-acre plot of land at the intersection of Interstate 575 and Sixes Road and one to grant the Marietta-based health care group a conditional use permit to construct a hospital and hospice facility there.

The council voted to accept WellStar’s request to rezone the land from general commercial and mixed use to entirely general commercial, which would allow all of the proposed facilities to be constructed there. But the vote to grant a permit for WellStar to construct a hospital or similar institution and a nursing/personal care home resulted in a unanimous decision to deny from the four council members voting.

Barnett did not give a reason for her abstention during the meeting, but Holly Springs City Manager Rob Logan said Tuesday Barnett chose to excuse herself from the votes because she is an employee of WellStar.

Another council member with a history of employment with one of the two health care groups with an interest in the decision, Dee Phillips, who was once employed by Northside, did not abstain.

Logan said Phillips’ employment with Northside was “years ago” and that he hadn’t heard any discussion about her abstaining from the vote for the reason of her previous employment before the vote Monday.

In addition, the council had no discussion on why they chose to deny WellStar’s request for a conditional use permit. A motion was made to deny the request and the council voted without any discussion.

Holly Springs City Council members also did very little in the way of discussing the potential outcome of the vote at their retreat in Young Harris on Saturday.

While WellStar’s plans were discussed, there was no discussion on how the council would vote on the matter, only projections of potential impact of such facilities, should they approve WellStar’s requests.

Before beginning a presentation on the details of the potential plan at Holly Springs’ city retreat in Young Harris on Saturday, Community Development Director Nancy Moon prefaced her talk by saying that it was still “up in the air as far as what will happen” with WellStar.

Logan said Tuesday that he thought the council members voted the way they did Monday because of their “comfort level for what was proposed for the property.”

Russ Davis, spokesperson for Northside Hospital-Cherokee, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the hospital is pleased by the council’s vote.

“The residents of Cherokee County are well served by Northside Hospital-Cherokee, the many current outpatient service locations, and those opening in the near future,” Davis said. “We are appreciative of the many Cherokee residents who remain so supportive of their local community hospital.”

Keith Bowermaster, spokesman for WellStar Kennestone, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that his company was “disappointed” with the decision.

“We believe this is the right project at the right location and at the right time, and the denial is a loss for the citizens of Holly Springs and Cherokee County,” Bowermaster said.

Logan said the denial of the conditional use permit doesn’t necessarily spell the end for WellStar at that Holly Springs site, as they could still build a medical office building there without a conditional use permit.

Bowermaster said WellStar is considering its options.

No member of the Holly Springs City Council could be reached for comment about the vote on Tuesday.
Comments
(7)
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Arnold B.
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March 22, 2013
Jingoism lives in Cherokee. Sure don't want any outside businesses coming in here. What a stupid decision. Turn your nose up at millions of dollars for the local economy, for what,to protect one of your buddies from competition?

If I were a business looking to expand, Cherokee would be dead last on my list of places to locate.
ubelievethat
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March 20, 2013
Good decision by council. Wellstar what goes around comes around. You stopped Northside years not it's your time. A hospital could have already been there, had Wellstar not raised the flag years ago. And for all the folks crying about jobs and taxes, where were you years ago when Northside wanted to build...you could already have jobs and a tax base.Sorry Mr. Mayor, you didn't get your wish. Wellstar you want to build then fill out the proper paper work and build. Built now, and don't make promises to build 8 to 10 years from now. Good decision by council.
Joe Schmo
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March 20, 2013
What a terribly-short-sighted decision by the council that does far more long-term harm than good for Cherokee County.

These are the Holly Springs City Council members. Vote against them the next election.

City Council Members

Post 1 - Kyle Whitaker

Post 2 - Dee Phillips

Post 3 - Michael Zenchuk

Post 4 - Karen Barnett

Post 5 - Jeremy Smith
fred D
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March 20, 2013
More competition means cheaper prices!
Chercitizen
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March 20, 2013
We need folks from Cobb to drive to Cherokee to work! We need local business here! We need to keep our citizens here to live, work & play. Cobb and Fulton get our work & play.
WellstarPatient
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March 23, 2013
We moved to Cherokee from Cobb County--as so many people have--because of the beauty and lovely homes and because some of us grew up here. It is growing so fast and the roads have become so congested. The DOT dropped the ball on widening highways 20 ,140 Bells Ferry and Old Highway 5. All that should have been done 20-30 years ago. WHERE WERE THE COUNTY PLANNERS?

OK-BACK TO THE DENIED WELLSTAR FACILITY. Unfortunally our doctors are at Wellstar and we have to drive down to Cobb for everything--that facility in Holly Springs was needed for Wellstar patients and for jobs that Cherokee desperatly needs. The new Northside that is being built is going to be wonderful-but I hear it won't be much larger than the old one--and cannot meet the needs of such a fast growing county. I have unfortunally had the RECENT experience of being at all 3 or the emergency rooms--Piedmont in Jasper, Cherokee-Northside and Wellstar Kennestone

All were very crowded and had long wait times. WE NEED MORE HOSPITALS!!!!!
Nurse105
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March 20, 2013
I guess medical professionals will continue to travel to Cobb County to work. Cherokee citizens need places of employment in Cherokee County! When we travel to work in Cobb, we will use Cobb health care. Convenience! Sure would be nice to not only live in Cherokee but to work in Cherokee too.
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