Holly Springs Mayor Tim Downing is not mincing words in his response to a letter written by Cherokee County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens raising concerns about WellStar Health System's request to rezone property to build a health park and hospital on Sixes Road at Interstate 575.
Reached on Monday, Downing took issue with the county's concerns about the development's impact on surrounding infrastructure and on the impact of building a tax exempt hospital would have on the county's tax digest.
Downing said when Northside Hospital-Cherokee acquired property between Georgia Highways 20 and 140 to build their replacement hospital, the company did not have the appropriate infrastructure in place.
"There was sufficient amount of time" to put in the infrastructure, Downing added.
Last year, the Cherokee County government began construction on extending Commerce Boulevard from its current terminus at Canton Creek near the Super Target in the Canton Marketplace to Highway 140/Hickory Flat Highway.
Commerce Boulevard will serve as the main thoroughfare to Northside Hospital's replacement facility and future medical campus.
"That’s the same thing with this site as well," Downing added. "WellStar has said that it will between seven and 15 years before hospital is constructed, which leaves plenty of time to install whatever infrastructure what may be lacking."
WellStar has requested the city rezone 62 acres at the southwest corner of Sixes Road at Interstate 575 from general commercial and mixed use to entirely general commercial.
WellStar has also requested to obtain a conditional use permit to operate an institution similar to a hospital and a hospice facility or personal care home.
The Holly Springs City Council will consider voting on both requests during its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Holly Springs Municipal Court chambers.
If approved, WellStar would like to build the health park first and follow up with a hospital within the next seven to 10 years. The hospice would be built based upon future customer or service demand.
Ahrens in the letter, which is attached, also took issue with the almost certainty that the new hospital would claim tax exempt status, thus taking a "high value property" off the county's tax digest.
Downing criticized that argument as "double speak," and noted he doesn't understand why that concern is a "big deal" since the county supports Northside Hospital-Cherokee, which currently has tax exempt status for its hospital.
While allowing a new hospital that could result in some loss of revenue, Downing said WellStar's plans would spur office and professional development, which would contribute to the tax rolls.
He also said adding another hospital would force both companies to work harder to provide quality service due to increased competition.
"The winner is the citizen because they are guaranteed above average health care," he said.