City Council takes step to bridge WellStar, community relations
by Nikki Wiley
March 07, 2014 04:00 AM | 3836 views | 7 7 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta City Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly listens to a WellStar official state the merits of the health system’s proposal to build a sky bridge across Church Street.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marietta City Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly listens to a WellStar official state the merits of the health system’s proposal to build a sky bridge across Church Street.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
Councilmen Grif Chalfant, left, and Andy Morris swap ideas.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Councilmen Grif Chalfant, left, and Andy Morris swap ideas.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
WellStar Health System has asked the city of Marietta for an easement to build a pedestrian sky bridge across Church Street. Shown is an early rendering of the proposed sky bridge.<br>Special to the MDJ
WellStar Health System has asked the city of Marietta for an easement to build a pedestrian sky bridge across Church Street. Shown is an early rendering of the proposed sky bridge.
Special to the MDJ
slideshow
MARIETTA — City officials said Thursday they would not consider approving an easement for WellStar Health’s planned pedestrian bridge across Church Street until WellStar meets with neighbors and gets their input on the project.

Residents of the historic neighborhood say they were caught off guard when WellStar’s Kennestone Hospital presented documents to City Council showing plans to build a new two-story, 80,750-square-foot emergency department, parking deck and a pedestrian bridge across Church Street.

WellStar says its plans aren’t final and community input will be considered in planning for the proposed expansion that involves constructing a 20-foot sky bridge across Church Street connecting the hospital’s existing surgery department to the new emergency department planned to be built between Church, Cherokee and Cherry streets.

To build the sky bridge, WellStar needs City Council to grant an easement, but the city’s say ends there. The proposed site is owned by the Cobb County Kennestone Hospital Authority, a government entity that is exempt from city zoning regulations.

City Council members said Thursday more conversations need to take place between WellStar and neighbors before they decide if an easement will be granted. Council was originally scheduled to vote on the issue Wednesday, but the topic has been tabled and won’t be considered until next month at the earliest.

“We have several public meetings before we have any speed humps … we’re talking about a bridge across one of our most important streets,” said Councilman Grif Chalfant, who called it “unconscionable” not to have input from residents.

Council wants more dialogue

Richard Calhoun, attorney for WellStar, urged council to grant the easement and said there would be no harm in moving forward because the hospital has agreed to give the city the final say in the design and aesthetics of the proposed bridge.

The hospital needs to know it has a commitment from the city before spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on architectural plans, said Bruce Dean, vice president of real estate for WellStar.

“We’d like to make certain that we’re not doing it as an exercise,” Dean said.

Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly said she would still like to see more public input before she casts her vote.

“I’d rather you skin the cat and meet with the community before coming to us,” Kelly said at Thursday night’s meeting. “A happy community is important, right? I also think it’s important for your business model.”

Mayor Steve Tumlin said the city will host a town hall meeting next month on the hospital’s proposed growth, but a date hadn’t been set Thursday night.

“This affects the entire city,” Tumlin said. “I think immediately of 17 streets and five subdivisions that it touches.”

Councilman Stuart Fleming said he has received numerous phone calls about the proposed expansion that expressed a wide range of grievances, including concerns about noise from Kennestone’s helicopter pad to not wanting anything built on the proposed site.

He asked residents to unify their concerns.

“I would encourage you to align on what those substantive issues are you have resistance to,” Fleming said.

Councilman Andy Morris, who represents the area around Kennestone, was quiet during Thursday night’s discussions but said before the meeting residents would get to speak their minds.

“I think we’ll have the final say-so of what the bridge will look like, if that’s what (residents) want to do,” Morris said.

WellStar surprised by outcry

Residents say they’re pleased that the council opted not to make any decisions until they have a chance to give input to the hospital.

About 15 residents attended Thursday night’s council session.

“The dialogue needs to happen,” said Meg Crawford, who lives on Church Street. “Without dialogue it’s unlikely we’ll get to a win-win.”

Lars Finderup, who lives on Seminole Drive, was also happy with the decision.

“They seem to understand we definitely need to do some more talking,” Finderup said.

Finderup is a member of a community advisory committee created to give residents input into activities at Kennestone, but he says that committee hasn’t met in six months.

He criticized WellStar for a lack of long-term planning.

“A little over a year ago, WellStar gave us a commitment to prepare a new, up-to-date master plan, and cooperate with the city and neighbors on development guidelines for a zoning overlay district,” Finderup said.

But Calhoun argued a five-year plan has been completed.

“I think that’s part of the frustration on the part of the hospital, that we did do exactly what we were asked to do,” Calhoun said, adding the push back has “taken us by surprise.”

Calhoun said much of the problem is that the community has the impression that WellStar is further along in its plans than it is.

“I think it’s really just a timing issue and maybe we’ve just gotten off on the wrong foot with that,” Calhoun said, referring to the timing of the easement request.

Comments
(7)
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Marietta Citizen
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March 08, 2014
Time is life and it's the busiest ER in the state, surpassing Grady a few years ago. If Kennestone was not here w/ Level II Trauma, then you, your family members, your dear friends, and I would all need to be transported to Atlanta for life-saving care and every second counts when life is on the line. The current ER is over 40 years old with very limited ground access. Change needs to occur to keep serving the community at a level that meets the need. There is a way it can be done to meet everyone's wishes / expectations, but conspiracy theories and egos need to be set aside. While some criticize and stereotype supporters and / or WellStar Leadership, they are helping to bring the best possible care to each and every person whether they can pay for it or not.
Marietta Citizen
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March 08, 2014
Time if life and it's the busiest ER in the state, surpassing Grady a few years ago. If Kennestone was not here w/ Level II Trauma, then you, your family members, your dear friends, and I would all need to be transported to Atlanta for life-saving care and every second counts when life is on the line. The current ER is over 40 years old with very limited ground access. Change needs to occur to keep serving the community at a level that meets the need. There is a way it can be done to meet everyone's wishes / expectations, but conspiracy theories and egos need to be set aside. While some criticize and stereotype supporters and / or WellStar Leadership, they are helping to bring the best possible care to each and every person whether they can pay for it or not.
JWestCobb
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March 07, 2014
Why not avoid this entire community kerfuffle? Join the buildings with a tunnel instead of a bridge. Out of sight and probably cheaper, too!
Mike In Smyrna
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March 07, 2014
OH My God – The Evil Wellstar has caught the blueblood wannabes and the upper crust off guard. This is a joke. The area north of Wellstar is industrial and nasty. The property in question is surrounded by medical facilities. Canton Road NE is dotted with medical facilities. Church Street, aka Georgia Highway 5 is major artery. The street is so close to the houses that you can see what the bluebloods are eating for dinner. What is the price tag . . . renovations to the square . . . a donation to the museum? The shakedown is on.
Cobbber
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March 07, 2014
The OM's are at it again. What amounts to a Home Owners Association dictates poicy for the entire city.
COBB CSI
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March 07, 2014
Michelle is dead right you would never know Well Star is a public hospital it has been high jacked by the rich white Republicans and is run as their own East Cobb business. Let’s guess there’s probably some over paid rich East Cobb housewife that’s in charge of community relations. I guess Candice isn’t leading like she should with community outreach been hanging out with Timmy Lee to much.
Dixiechick59
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March 07, 2014
This is a public hospital that's asking another public body for permission to build a bridge across a street, not build a nuclear reactor in the middle of a subdivision. If you look around, there are bridges over a lot of roads. This request should be granted without interference by a small group of citizens who have only their own selfish interests at heart, and little regard for the public necessity of an optimally functional hospital.

The hospital was there when the objectors moved to the area. If they didn't want to be near a hospital... Normally a desirable ...thing, then they shouldn't have bought homes there.

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