By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Council has signed off on a development and infrastructure agreement with Townsend Construction Company concerning the redevelopment of the Beulah Park property. The action was taken at the June 3 council meeting.
According to the agreement, the 212-acre property sits in a community reinvestment area, making it eligible for a 15-year, 100 percent real property tax exemption. This will run simultaneously with a 30-year 100 percent tax increment financing exemption.
“This is one of the biggest mixed-use developments in central Ohio,” said Greg Daniels, attorney with the firm of Squire Patton Boggs who serves as the city’s adviser on public and private development projects.
“This is a big project and a big undertaking.”
The large-scale project may be beneficial for the city, but officials with Jackson Township see it as a challenge, especially for its fire department.
The redevelopment project includes 389 apartment units, 110 ranch-style condominiums, 70 townhome-style condominiums, 266 single family homes as well as an assisted and independent living facility.
“This is a very challenging project,” said Jackson Township Administrator Shane Farnsworth. “Last year, our fire department went on 10,000 runs and we expect to surpass that number this year as Grove City grows. This project is going to create extra demand on the fire department.”
Farnsworth asked council to consider an additional assessment for the property that would go toward emergency services for the township.
“We want to ensure our firefighters have the resources to provide services,” said the township administrator. When asked about the fire department’s financial picture, Farnsworth said, “We are eating into our reserves. We are going in the wrong direction.”
Councilwoman Christine Houk said this issue is her biggest concern with the agreement.
“We are putting a demand on our fire department and there is no revenue stream right now,” she said.
According to Daniels, under the agreement, once the development reaches its latter phases of development, there would be extra funds available for the fire department.
Council members questioned if there was a way to address the issue now and bridge the 15-year funding gap.
Daniels said there is some flexibility to shuffle funds around to free up money earlier though that could extend the debt payments.
The developer, Pat Kelley with Falco, Smith and Kelley, said the issue with funding emergency services should be resolved in a broader context.
“We’ve been working on this project for several years and our costs have already increased. We are scrambling for funds to make this happen,” said Kelley.
Kelley said the city and the township should work together to solve the problem.
Despite council unanimously approving the agreement as presented with no assessment for the fire department, city leaders said they would work with the township.
Per the development agreement, the developer would make-whole payments to the South-Western City Schools District.
The infrastructure portion of the agreement comes with approximately $30 million in improvements.
According to the agreement, the developer would be responsible for construction of all on-site infrastructure as well as certain off-site improvements including the widening of Southwest Boulevard to five, 11-foot lanes with two through lanes in each direction. Other anticipated infrastructure improvements include roadways, sidewalks, bike paths, water and sanitary sewer extension and street lighting. Once the developer extends Park Street through the property to Demorest Road, the developer would pay the city $180,000 to help improve that portion of Demorest Road.
Per the legislation, the city would be solely responsible for the construction of the extension of Columbus Street across the railroad tracks into the Beulah property.
In addition to the residential aspect of the development agreement, the developer has agreed to deed approximately 30 acres of land to the city for a park. City officials also want to allow the South-Western City Schools District to construct a middle school on about 20 acres of land, located north of Grove City Road between Demorest Road and Elm Street.
Per the agreement, the developer decided to give the city or the school district the option to purchase the property for just over $800,000.
In related news, Grove City council approved an ordinance to authorize the city administrator to enter into an agreement with the Indiana and Ohio Railway Company for the construction and maintenance of a new crossing. This is part of the plan to create a new entrance to the Beulah Park property through the Columbus Street extension. The city wants to construct a new public road and replace the crossing at Grant Avenue.
According to the agreement, the city agreed to accept the entire expense for the installation of rail equipment including new gates, lights and a drivable crossing surface.
The work is estimated at $273,000.