Grove City Council has approved a preliminary development plan for Beulah Park.

The plan, submitted by developer Patrick Kelley of Falco, Smith and Kelley Ltd., would divide the 213-acre former horse-racing track site into nine subareas. The development would include both residential and commercial/office uses.

The concept is based on "new urbanism" with an emphasis on walkability, said Gary Schmidt, managing partner at G2 Planning & Design.

Commercial and office use would be planned for about 17 acres along Southwest Boulevard and would likely be neighborhood-scale flex offices, he said.

"These would be very small, one-story buildings," he said. "We're trying to create a land-use transition, especially on Southwest Boulevard, from pretty large warehouse buildings" located near the development area.

The preliminary plan also proposes about 111 acres of residential development, including traditional single-family houses, empty-nester and townhouse-style condominiums and apartments.

About 20 acres would feature single-family houses that would front onto a 29-acre central park that would be built in the middle of the development, Schmidt said.

The park would offer both passive and active uses, he said.

When the planning commission approved the preliminary plan last month, it was with the stipulation that no residences be permitted to back up to the park.

The resolution council approved Dec. 4 included that stipulation, as well as a requirement that the zoning text be reviewed and considered with the rezoning application for the site.

A 14-page zoning text has already been submitted, which is not typical at this stage, said Donald Plank, president of Plank Law Firm.

While the developer has no problem with the stipulation regarding the zoning text, the plan to have houses fronting the park is an important part of the concept for the development, Plank said.

"We would like the opportunity to continue discussion (during the rezoning or considerations of the final development plans) and try to convince the council and planning commission that it would be an amenity for the park and for the development," he said.

The preliminary plan also proposes a 175-bed assisted-living facility.

The plan shows two new public streets providing access to the site from Southwest Boulevard, two new streets onto Demorest Road including the extension of Park Street, the extension of Lincoln Avenue and Columbus Street from the Town Center and the extension of Elm Street in the south central area of the development.

Council tabled an ordinance to approve financing of the Columbus Street extension until its Dec. 18 meeting.

Final development plans will be presented for each of the subareas, Plank said. The development area would also need to be rezoned.

The developer expects to bring at least three final development plans to council in January, he said.

The goal is to start construction on the initial elements of the development in spring, Plank said.

While council unanimously approved the preliminary development plan, which simply provides a general concept for the project, some council members expressed some concerns about aspects of the plan.

Councilman Ted Berry said he didn't like how a roadway is shown cutting directly through the middle of the park.

"Why is there a road in the middle of the development when you could have a boulevard around it?" he asked.

The road would provide connectivity with the Town Center, Plank said.

Schmidt noted that the city's Beulah Park Conceptual Framework called for connectivity so residents to the south and west would be connected through Beulah Park.

Berry said he thought "we could do better" for some of the area along Southwest Boulevard than the single-story commercial buildings suggested in the development plan.

He also repeated his desire that warehouses not be part of the redevelopment.

Some of the office development could be office warehouses that would offer a front office with storage in the back, Plank said.

"They would all look like offices," he said.

"I'm just telling you if it looks like a warehouse and smells like a warehouse, Ted's not voting for it," Berry said.