FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved plans for a 74,500 square foot HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital facility on Sanders Road. 

The land was previously zoned for commercial retail operations, but the board voted to amend zoning conditions for the hospital at its Aug. 15 meeting, saying that this was a needed resource for the county. Residents of the nearby Grove Park neighborhood raised concerns about the development, asking for stronger buffers, measures to address light pollution and larger walls to keep the facility out of sight

Carl Westmoreland, an attorney representing the hospital, spoke in favor of the plans, saying that the plans had been worked out with the community over the past several months.

In 2016, 109 residents had to go out of the county for the types of treatment this rehab center will provide, including rehabilitation associated with strokes, head injuries and joint replacements, Westmoreland said. 

Robert Long, the vice president of economic development for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in favor of the center. The development will bring more than 100 jobs and a net gain of $1.4 million in property values over the next 10 years, according the chamber’s capital investment analysis.

Grove Park residents wore red, just as they did for the April Planning Commission Meeting to show their opposition. Grove Park Homeowners Association board member Sharon Housley likened the development to a big box store. 

“It is a hard, big block building,” Housley said. “We do not want to see it at all. We do not want to see the light from it at all.” 

Another Grove Park resident, Scotty DuPriest, said he was not happy with the development, but he trusted his county representative and Chairwoman Laura Semanson to ensure the amendments made to the zoning conditions would be enforced. 

Semanson said the development would be less “cumbersome” than a shopping center or other retail that could have been built on this property. 

“It’s lower impact in many ways,” she said. “On the whole, it is less intense than what is there currently.”

County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she had to take her father to this type of rehab center two years ago and had to drive to Dahlonega and North Fulton for care, she said.

“Our citizens desperately need a place like this, so they don’t have to go to other counties,” Mills said. 

It’s stressful enough to have that kind of sickness in your family, she said, and residents shouldn’t have to drive farther for care.

Semanson proposed amendments to the zoning requirements, making the wall facing the Grove Park community solid, extending buffers and adding language requiring lights to be obscured near the neighborhood.

The board approved the plans by a vote of 5-0.

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