“This is a milestone decision for this project and, more importantly, the residents of east Cobb,” WellStar spokesman Keith Bowermaster said. “In an August 2010 consumer survey, area residents indicated a strong desire for the WellStar East Cobb Health Park. Any further appeals by our competitor may needlessly delay this much-needed and sought-after outpatient service.”
Bowermaster said Northside could once again appeal the decision, but this time it would be through the court system rather than the Department of Community Health, as was the case in this appeal.
Russ Davis, spokesman for Northside Hospital, declined to comment Monday, saying they “just received word about the decision.”
Bowermaster said the health system is still working with nearby residents and business owners to finalize the design of the health park, but current plans for the 205,000-square-foot building call for four stories of space, one of which will be underground, and approximately 950 parking spaces. To put the size in perspective, the health park will be about 60,000 square feet larger than a typical Home Depot store and about 50,000 square feet smaller than a typical Walmart Supercenter. It will also be about three times bigger than the three-story, 70,000-square-foot Acworth Health Park that WellStar Health System officials broke ground on Oct. 17.
The ambulatory surgery center will be about 20,000 square feet — or 10 percent — of the facility, to be located at the corner of Roswell and Providence roads.
WellStar submitted the first certificate of need application to the state in May 2010. Officials met two months later in July, and Bowermaster said the application was opposed by Northside Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta, North Fulton Regional Hospital and some smaller, independent outpatient surgery centers.
On Sept. 20, 2010, the CON was approved by the state and at that point, Northside was the only institution to follow through with an appeal, Bowermaster said. The appeal hearing was conducted Aug. 8 through Aug. 11, and Ellwood F. Oakley, III, an administrative law judge appointed by the state to hear the case, reaffirmed the original approval on Monday.
Bowermaster said WellStar officials still have not yet decided if they will go through the normal zoning process with the county Board of Commissioners or through the Hospital Authority — a decision many nearby residents have waited for closely. If WellStar goes through the Hospital Authority, it avoids measures such as commission stipulations and resident input that are allowed through the zoning process.
The health system plans to break ground on the facility late spring or early summer 2012 and begin seeing patients in late fall or early winter 2013, Bowermaster said.
“With this project now approved multiple times — by the DCH and now by a hearing officer — WellStar is excited to be moving forward,” Bowermaster said.
The attorneys for the appeals process include Armando Bassaratte of Atlanta law firm Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs, representing WellStar; Kathy Butler Polvino of Atlanta law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, representing Northside; and Alex Sponseller, representing the DCH.
Follow Katy Ruth Camp on Twitter at twitter.com/KatyRuthC.