Atlanta mayor extends rezoning ban at Atlanta Medical Center site

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has issued another executive order to continue the city’s ban on redevelopment permits for the site of the closing Atlanta Medical Center.

AMC is a 120-year-old institution in the Old Fourth Ward. The city deems it essential infrastructure for the community because it serves low-income families as one of the region’s two Level I trauma centers.

Wellstar Health System officials on Aug. 31 announced plans close the AMC by Nov. 1. The announcement spurred Dickens to issue an executive order last week for the City Planning department to refuse applications for rezoning, building permits, land disturbances, special administrative permits, subdivisions, replatting or lot consolidations for 15 parcels of land within AMC’s footprint.

The order expired Monday, but the mayor’s office says they’re working with Atlanta City Council to ratify the temporary ban. The council introduced the ordinance at their Monday meeting, and it was referred to the council’s zoning committee — which meets next Monday.

“This moratorium provides the time and space necessary to work with the community, health care providers and other stakeholders to address the impact of this unusually abrupt closure of one of Atlanta’s most important medical centers,” Dickens said in a statement.

If the ordinance passes, the moratorium on AMC permit applications would expire 180 days after the ordinance becomes effective, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The temporary ban would also expire under the ordinance if the council votes on a zoning plan for the site before the 180-day period ends.

At the meeting, Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond also introduced a resolution for the city to create a “Wellstar study group” tasked with creating recommendations for the future use of the site as a “center for equity and other purposes.”

Nearly two city blocks are owned by Wellstar for the AMC property, which spans across 25 acres. Its zoning regulations include the C-1 Community Business District, C-2 Commercial Service District, and the C-4 Central Area Commercial Residential District. Some of the properties also fall within the Beltline Overlay District and Beltline Affordable Workforce Housing District.

Dickens says Atlanta wants to prioritize the continued use of the site — in whole or in part — for health care services. AMC also houses the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 6 Crime Suppression Precinct, so Dickens wants to maintain that public safety infrastructure at the site as well.

Regardless, Wellstar last week said AMC’s emergency room will close even sooner, on Oct. 14. A spokesman for the mayor said the administration will continue to coordinate with health care providers to prepare for the impact of the closure.

“While we are disappointed in the manner in which they have made these announcements to the Atlanta community — decisions that greatly impact our communities’ access to healthcare options and the burdens they create on the existing system — the Administration continues to explore all options to minimize the impact of Wellstar’s short-sighted decisions.”