Council approves elderly facility

Tia Lynn Ivey News

A proposed large-scale senior living continuum of care campus, The Wellbridge Community, is underway in Madison. The project has earned public support, but with one caveat of hesitation due to a nearby “dangerous” intersection that has long earned the ire of city officials and Madison residents. While the Madison Mayor and City Council unanimously approved a map amendment to accommodate the proposed project, which aims to construct about 250 housing units and an 80-bed memory-care facility to be built on 74 acres between Bethany Road and 441, officials, along with members of the public, discussed the traffic concerns at length during Monday evening’s regular meeting.

City Planner Monica Callahan presented a traffic study done for the Wellbridge Community project, which concluded that once the facility is up and running, traffic in the area would triple. City officials and residents, who have for years advocated for a traffic light to be installed at the intersection between Bethany Road and 441, worried that a fatality at that intersection would only be a matter of time once the traffic flow is tripled. Callahan noted that this would bring the area’s rating down from a “D” to an “F.”

However, the city, nor the county, has the authority to install a traffic light at the Bethany Road Intersection, only the Georgia Department of Transportation can make that call—and the agency as of now has determined a traffic light is not necessary.

“It’s a major concern. Even without this development, it’s a dangerous intersection,” said Councilman Rick Blanton. “But I hope that the City, the County, and the school board can pull together and try to get GDOT to consider putting a light there.”

“You just cannot see over that hill when you cross,” said Councilman Joe DiLetto. “We need a red light.”

Steve Stempinski, owner of Steve’s Place in Madison, spoke in favor of the Wellbridge Community project, but pressed the council to petition GDOT for a traffic light.

“It’s arguably the most dangerous intersection in all of Madison,” said Stempinski. “I hear that the rumor is that it’s going to take dead bodies there before they do anything,” lamented Stempinksi.

Callahan noted that GDOT does take the number of car accidents at an intersection into account when assessing the need for traffic lights. She also noted that the increased traffic flow that will result from the Wellbridge Community may move up the intersection on GDOT’s priority list. Callahan reminded the council that they cannot make zoning decisions based on GDOT matters.

Despite the council’s traffic concerns, they voted unanimously to approve the map amendment needed for the project to move forward, with several conditions. The state-of-the-art senior living community will offer an array of health and wellness services to its residents, as well as recreational activities on site, to establish a senior community that can accommodate the various needs of seniors, whether in good health or poor health. The cost for seniors to live at the Wellbridge Community would range between $1100 and $5000 per month. The community is expected to generate between 50 and 70 jobs, with about half jobs being full-time positions. The housing facilities would include 20 craftsman cottages (duplex-style) for a total of 40 units and 212 apartment-style units in 53 courtyard common buildings. The campus would provide onsite prepared meals in a cafeteria, an adult daycare center, a welcome center and an amenities building for recreational activities. The amenities building will include a pool, tennis courts, bocce ball, and pickle-ball. The campus will also feature nature trails, a stocked fishing pond, and gardens.  Residents will also be able to receive housekeeping and laundry services as well as certain medical services right on campus. According to the proposed project plans, the entryways leading to the campus would be built on Bethany Road.

“The proposed community will offer the residents the opportunity to maintain their independence as long as possible, while having the options for services as they want or need them,” wrote Kelly Mahoney, of Wellbridge Community, LLC., in the application to the city. According to Wellbridge, the mission of the project is to “develop and operate an affordable, coordinated, multiservice aging community that provides an inclusive lifestyle as desired, with support as needed.”

Councilman Eric Joyce said he is usually hesitant to approve rezoning applications, but believes the Wellbridge Community will be beneficial for Madison.

“Usually the warning lights go off in my head to proceed with extreme caution. There are also legitimate concerns with traffic here,” began Joyce. “But this is the kind of smart-controlled growth that we need to keep our community viable in the future. This project meets a lot of checks in my mind. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Even though I have concerns about rezoning and traffic, I think this deserves my support.”

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