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.