Northside Blasts WellStar's Plans in Holly Springs

Representatives with Northside Hospital-Cherokee expressed skepticism to the Holly Springs City Council about WellStar Health System's proposal to build a health park.

Dozens of residents who showed up at the Holly Springs City Council work session to hear what WellStar Health System has in store for the city were greeted with Northside Hospital-Cherokee raising questions on the company's proposals. 

WellStar has petitioned the city to rezone about 62 acres at the southwest corner of Sixes Road at Interstate 575 from general commercial and mixed use to entirely general commercial.

It 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 City Council on Monday reviewed the request and is slated to vote on the proposals during its meeting on March 18.

Officials with Northside expressed concerns over WellStar's intentions and referred to the Marietta-based health services company's plans as being murky, according to the Cherokee Tribune.

Robert Rozier, an attorney with Atlanta-based Mckenna, Long & Aldridge LLP who specializes in health care law, told the council that it's unlikely WellStar would be able to develop a hospital on the site, according to the Tribune. 

He noted the Certificate of Need (CON) review program under the Georgia Department of Community Health has never given a company the green light to build a hospital within a 10-mile radius of an existing hospital.

Don Hausfeld of the Landon Group, who has helped Northside Hospital-Cherokee in the development process of its replacement hospital it's building in Canton, added the project would contribute to an additional tens of thousands of trips per day on Sixes Road, according to the newspaper. 

Both companies have raised challenges to each other's plans, most recently when WellStar in 2011 raised objections to Northside's plans to build a replacement hospital in Canton, which it later dropped.

Northside also objected to WellStar's plans for its East Cobb Health Park.

Last week, the Holly Springs Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday voted to recommend approval of both of the company's requests. 

Among its several stipulations, the commission said a free-standing emergency department could be allowed on the property only if it's attached to the proposed hospital. 

Richard Calhoun, a Marietta attorney representing WellStar in its quest to rezone the property, said the company's proposal is similar to what it has in place at its Acworth Health Park and the hospital under construction in Paulding County.

If approved, Calhoun said WellStar would like to build the health park first and follow up with a hospital within the next seven to 10 years. The hospice, he added, would be built based upon customer or service demand.

The health park, slated to be a $38 million investment, would be three stories and include services such as family medicine practice, internal medicine, a pharmacy, outpatient surgery, pediatric care, a sleep center and medical imaging. 

It would have between 125 and 150 employees and could bring between 100,000 and 150,000 patients per year.

The proposed 100-bed hospital would be a $100 million investment, a 238,000-square-foot facility and in-patient and out-patient services and surgery options. 

The hospice, which he noted would be similar to its Tranquility hospice centers in Marietta and Austell, would be around 27,000 square feet, have a 20 patient rooms and employ between 40 and 50 people.  

Calhoun, who noted the property is "ideal" for a medical facility, added Northside has tried to bring up issues before the city council that "they shouldn’t have to decide."

"This is a zoning issue and that’s all it is," he said. 

The city also reviewed a request to annex and rezone 2.04 acres 3095 Marble Quarry Road from office & institutional in Cherokee County to neighborhood commercial.

The Planning and Zoning Commission last month recommended approval to annex the property, but recommended denial to rezone the property, which the applicant wants to use for a grocery store.

The request has raised the eyebrows of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.

The commission on Tuesday approved a resolution asking the city to support the county's comprehensive plan and to support the city's planning commission's recommendation. 

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