More than 100 people filled Delaware City Council chambers Oct. 7 as the city's planning commission got its first look at a proposed mixed-use development for the front nine holes of the Delaware Golf Club.

More than 100 people filled Delaware City Council chambers Oct. 7 as the city's planning commission got its first look at a proposed mixed-use development for the front nine holes of the Delaware Golf Club.

Their concerns centered on three issues: How any development would impact programs and classes at the neighboring Perkins Observatory; how it would affect property values in the area; and how it would change the golf course.

Developer R&J Properties wants to build single and multifamily residences, as well as office and retail buildings, on the 73 acres adjacent to U.S. Route 23. Two of the three proposed site plans include a "big-box retailer."

The golf course holes farthest to the east -- the back nine -- would be maintained, according to Jason Zadeh, one of the R&J partners.

While the majority of the site is on land annexed to the city over the past several years, some of it is in three townships -- Berlin, Liberty and Delaware, said Dave Efland, city planning and community development director.

That land would require annexation into the city before moving forward.

Efland said the developer is aware of the "importance of the property as a green gateway" along U.S. 23 and the Olentangy River corridor, as well as the proposed development's proximity to the observatory and the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Residents who spoke at the meeting wanted Zadeh and his partners to know how they believed the development would affect the area, primarily Perkins Observatory, which Efland called an "icon" of the astronomical community.

A golf course is a perfect neighbor for an observatory, said Perkins volunteer Brad Hoehne, who questioned if the developer really understands the effect that lighting would have on those who use Perkins to study the night sky.

"We have taken steps to ameliorate the light pollution ... (and) steps to make sure the stars are visible," he said.

Hoehne added that those steps include no lights on the grounds and only a covered red light at the door. Also, access is restricted for people driving to the observatory during programs because one look at headlights can distort a person's ability to see stars for 20 minutes.

"Given the proximity of your development to the observatory ... I don't foresee any lighting situation that would allow the observatory to operate in its current capacity today," Hoehne said. "Even a light inside a house would ruin the view for quite a few people."

Perkins Observatory, which is owned and operated by Ohio Wesleyan University, also is a classroom for a number of OWU students, said Bob Harmon, chairman of the school's physics department.

"OWU students have a lot of unique and extraordinary experiences. Perkins is a crucial part of this experience," said student Thomas Kent, of Yellow Springs.

Looking at the sky through a 32-inch telescopic lens gives students "a different perspective. To lose that would be tragic," he said.

"I've stared at these plans and see no way to light this mixed-use development that would ensure the continued existence ... of my beloved observatory," said Tom Burns, observatory director.

When asked about the future of the back nine holes of the golf course, Columbus attorney Tom Hart, representing golf course owner Ron Sabatino, said it would continue to operate as a nine-hole golf course.

Sabatino bought the course and club, formerly the Dornoch Golf Club, out of bankruptcy in 2007 for about $2-million. The club continues to lose money and Sabatino sees this as a way to continue operations, Hart said.

Dornoch Estates residents Rick Bidwell and Andy Bower said they bought homes on an 18-hole golf course, not nine holes.

"I don't want my home on a nine-hole golf course," Bidwell said. "That is not a golf course.

"Taking away the front nine destroys the 18 holes and won't do anything for our property values."

Bower said he canceled his membership prior to attending the meeting.

Dornoch Homeowners Association president Larry Marmon said his group has not taken a position on the proposed development, but he has "grave concerns" about how the smaller-sized homes the developer wants to build will affect his home's value.

And, he said, people paid an extra $30,000 to build homes near the fifth hole, which is where the "big-box retailer" store would go if the plan moves forward.

"We are doing our research on a variety of things and hope this is not decided until we have fully explored everything that will affect us," Marmon told the planning commission.

While commission member Maria Vonada said she understands that property owners have rights, she said she was concerned on several fronts, including the effect the development would have on fire and safety services and the effects on the observatory and the people who use it.

Commission member Jim Halter voiced his concern over the dwindling green space along the U.S. 23 corridor.

Commission chairman and city council member Joe DiGenova questioned the success the development might have in the current economy given the number of retail establishments that are sitting empty and the homes that are going unsold.

Zadeh acknowledged the economy might make it more difficult to get going, but feels the "uniqueness" of the site will be an attraction.

The commission has a lot to "absorb," said DiGenova, who added the issue will require much more study before it comes back to the commission and then to city council for a vote.