Council OKs Church Street bridge 7-0
by Jon Gillooly
May 15, 2014 04:00 AM | 4818 views | 8 8 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WellStar Health System wants to build a new two-story, 80,750-square-foot emergency department, parking deck and bridge across Church Street as part of an expansion at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, as seen in this rendering. A meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Kennestone Auditorium at the hospital, at 77 Church St. to discuss the project.<br>Special to the MDJ
WellStar Health System wants to build a new two-story, 80,750-square-foot emergency department, parking deck and bridge across Church Street as part of an expansion at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, as seen in this rendering. A meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Kennestone Auditorium at the hospital, at 77 Church St. to discuss the project.
Special to the MDJ
MARIETTA — Over objections from residents, the City Council on Wednesday granted an easement allowing WellStar Kennestone Hospital to erect a pedestrian bridge over Church Street.

Church Street residents have argued the hospital’s plan to build a bridge threatens their historic neighborhood. WellStar officials say Kennestone’s emergency room is overcrowded and in need of an expansion. WellStar plans to develop an area it calls “the triangle” at the corner of Church, Cherry and Cherokee streets by building a new two-story, 175,020-square-foot building there, including an 80,750-square-foot emergency department.

The new emergency room would be connected to the existing surgery department by a 20-foot bridge across Church Street. A parking deck is also included in the plans.

Candice Groves, who lives off Freyer Drive, was one of several residents to speak out against the proposal Wednesday, asking for an alternative solution.

“The bridge and horizontal easements across the roads are not right for this community,” Groves said. “It’s really only appropriate in very dense, urban cores and that is not a dense, urban core.”

But Councilman Andy Morris, who represents the area, came prepared with a typed-out speech, which he read from, explaining why a vote to approve the request was needed.

“I personally believe this bridge will be a very attractive gateway addition to our city, and I believe it will provide safety to those who need it most,” Morris read, before calling for a vote in which the council approved the easement request 7-0.

Morris also read from a May 8 letter from WellStar CEO Reynold Jennings to Mayor Steve Tumlin which said, among other things, that “WellStar has no plans to develop WellStar’s portion of the block lying between Margaret Street, Cherry Street, Church Street and Cherokee Street in its present five-year plan other than for the property to be used as a landscape buffer and parking area.”

Art gallery owner Kee Carlisle, who lives off Sessions Street, stepped up to the lectern before the vote, telling the council that WellStar, “did a terrible public relations job of not working with the advisory community board, which I’m a member of, rather let us read in the newspaper of what’s going to be happening and so forth, and so I’m disappointed.”

Carlisle also expressed dismay with WellStar’s letter, which he doesn’t believe is binding.

“I’m also disturbed because this letter said ‘current plans.’ Current plans do not include further expansion,” Carlisle said. “Now you can read a lot into that, but that sounds to me like next year’s five-year plan will include it.”

WellStar Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Kim Menefee sat in the audience but remained silent throughout the discussion.

Resident Jeff Traicoff, who lives off Freyer Drive, said after the meeting he knew the bridge approval was “a done deal” before arriving at the meeting.

“It’s not a good deal for the city,” Traicoff said. “I don’t know anybody in the group that I work with that’s actually against building in there. We’re just all concerned about the future growth and there is no stops at this point from preventing them from coming into the neighborhoods.”

Retired Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Jim Morris believes an emergency room is not needed in “the triangle,” but should be kept where it is and expanded to the south.

“What they’re doing is conquering this triangle so they can expand to the east,” Morris said. “There’s nothing in the stipulation that says they’re not going to move east. Everything up against the hospital, all the years it’s been there since 1950, everything against the hospital gets eaten up, everything residential gets eaten alive.”

Like Traicoff, Carlisle said he knew the council would approve the bridge.

“We knew that because for one thing I live in Ward 4 and our city councilman (Morris) has been all for pushing this vote ever since the thing got started,” Carlisle said. “And the other thing, every time the hospital has come before City Council to ask for approval for a measure they’ve always gotten it. And I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying they’ve always gotten it.”

Dan Conn, the city’s public works director, said the bridge won’t be erected for another three to five years while the hospital obtains the needed permitting for the emergency room expansion.

In other business, council members also approved a resolution that creates a new tax district called the Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District along the Franklin Road corridor.

Community improvement districts are formed by area property owners who agree to tax themselves at a higher rate, up to 5 additional mills, using the extra revenues to obtain state and federal dollars to pay for infrastructure improvements.

“The next step is for the property owners to elect a board who will set the millage tax rate,” said Beth Sessoms, the city’s economic development director.

There are two other CIDs in Cobb County: the Cumberland CID and the Town Center Area CID.

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June 06, 2014
So over 50 employees have been "displaced" over the last few weeks due to budget constraints but WellStar can afford to just keep building on more and more? This place is incredible. No matter how many paid advertisements they publish about it being a great place to work they continue to show no respect for the employees.
Marietta Taxpayer
May 16, 2014
This is big business running small government. WellStar doesn't pay taxes but employs people who do. Our so called "leaders" are really followers and are bullied by the sue happy lawyers of WellStar.

They did not listen to the people of Marietta, yet had their own ambitions of glory and to call a stupid bridge a gateway shows just the intelligence of the people we elect. They should be all thrown out of office much like the Cobb County Commissioners who decided to put a baseball stadium in the middle of the worst traffic area in the county funded by our tax dollars. Nobody is listening to the citizens...not at the federal level, not at the state level, not at the county level and obviously we now have incompetence at the city level. Thanks Thunder!!!!!
May 17, 2014
Er, yeah they did, and the "people of Marietta" told them they were "idiots", that " it wasn't easy living on Church St. ", and that they were being given a " load of crap".

Great public relations moves by the Church St. gang.
May 15, 2014
The vast majority of the residents in the City and in Ward 4 have no issue with this bridge or with the new Emergency Room. Andy Morris represents a lot more people than just the dozen who are always in opposition to anything relating to the hospital. The bridge will be no bigger problem than the school's bridge on Polk and the courthouse bridge on Haynes, which no one has ever said one word about.
May 15, 2014
Andy couldn’t wait to cast his vote, as instructed by his Wellstar handlers. And this from someone who claims to represent the people in his district? And as to the letter from CEO Reynold Jennings stating that “Wellstar has no plans to develop” the area around Margaret, Cherry, Church, and Cherokee Street in its present five-year plan, the obvious question is what happens after five years? For the people who live in that area, Deathstar, uh, Wellstar looms large. As for Andy, he finally gets what he was after all along, free healthcare from the City of Marietta, courtesy of the good tax paying citizens.
May 16, 2014
Tell me something here-the area the hospital wants to build on is already occupied by hospital related buildings, and was zoned for offices and other non residential structures, so what 's the beef the residents have with the hospital using its own property?

toldya so
May 15, 2014
Poor residents! Big, big money and a councilman who doesn't even support them. No thought at all for the folks, just lets help make the hospital as big as we can and the traffic unbelievable. The whole bunch who voted for this need to be thrown out of office. And for Morris to say he thought this would be a beautiful gateway into the city! That comment insults the intelligence of all of us!
Marietta Resident
May 15, 2014
These people on Church Street are acting like a bunch of snobs. Looking at the plans, I see no interference with your neighborhood or detriment to your so called precious homes. At least you live in a halfway decent part of the city. Don't the other residents have a say in this ? This expansion would be a plus for the city residents.
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