City council debates a comprehensive parks plan

By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor

The city of Grove City has several park projects in the works. At the Nov. 16 meeting, Grove City Council discussed the creation of a comprehensive park plan.

According to councilman Randy Holt, this comprehensive plan would incorporate Beulah Park, the old library site, Breck Park, Pinnacle Park, and the entrance to Beulah Plaza.

“We need to look at this holistically,” said Holt.

During the meeting, council had its first reading of an ordinance to set aside $250,000 from the general fund to remove a portion of Arbutus Avenue for the Town Center Park, which would be located at the old library site. The second reading and public hearing is scheduled in December. Holt said the Town Center Park should be minimal with some green space. He believes the city should put more focus and resources into the 30-acre Beulah Park, which would include an amphitheater.

“We don’t need two big parks in that area,” said Holt.

The current concept for Beulah Park is estimated to cost around $11 million. The projected cost for the entrance to Beulah Plaza is $2 million.

Holt said financing options could include an inside millage increase, an increase in city income tax, or a bond.

“Once the TIF from Beulah comes in, the city can start paying back those funds,” said Holt.

The Beulah TIF runs for 15 years.

“It is important to act immediately on Beulah Park,” said Holt. “It’s a benefit to the community.”

Pat Kelley, the Beulah developer, urged council to move forward with the park at a previous meeting.

Council president Christine Houk said city leaders need to take into consideration that amount of debt already tied to the redevelopment of Beulah. She said the property owner purchased the land for $4.9 million. According to Houk, the city has already invested $3 million in racetrack redevelopment funds, $6 million in bonds for the Columbus Street extension, $5 million for infrastructure on the site and more for land to relocate Brookpark Middle School.

In addition, Houk said council does not need to address a comprehensive park plan.

“We have a parks and recreation department with a plan for our parks,” said the council president.

The park brainstorming session also included a concept for Pinnacle Park. One of the ideas mentioned was to build an indoor athletic facility that could include an aquatics center, indoor tennis and pickleball courts, basketball courts, and senior space. This concept could cost upward of $20 million plus annual staffing and maintenance costs.

Holt said this could be funded without residential tax increases.

“There is $4 million generated a year through the Pinnacle TIF,” said Holt. “Let’s start using that money.”

The comprehensive park plan also includes a proposal to add a gazebo, paths, and a pavilion at Breck Park.

Councilman Ted Berry wanted to reiterate that the comprehensive plan was a brainstorming session.

“This is nothing concrete,” said Berry. “But we want to move the ball forward.”

In other news, Tony Collins, the CEO of YMCA of Central Ohio attended the meeting to thank the city for using CARES Act funds to help the Grove City YMCA. The city used $76,000 of its federal coronavirus aid funds to benefit the Grove City and Vaughn E. Hairston YMCAs.

Collins said the YMCA was able to reopen in June.

“We are now getting our feet underneath us,” he said.

According to Collins, the Grove City YMCA is one of the most well attended facilities in central Ohio. Before the pandemic, the facility saw an average of 1,100 members visit daily. Now, the facility averages around 300, which Collins says is still the most in the area.

The CEO said the YMCA hopes to expand hours of operation in Grove City.

Council also approved a resolution to distribute $1.2 million in CARES Act funding to the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, Jackson Township and Franklin County Public Health. The organizations must utilize the funds by the end of the year.

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