Grove City Council has pulled the reins on a Columbus-area developer's concept for converting the former Buckeye Ranch Equestrian Center site into a mixed-use development labeled as Bluegrass Park.

Council voted 3-2 to reject the preliminary development plan BBR Ventures had for the 32-acre site. The proposal for the Bluegrass Park development included 240 apartment units, assisted-living units, office/medical office space and a possible day care facility.

Council members Ted Berry, Christine Houk and Steve Robinette voted against the preliminary development plan. Council members Jeffrey Davis and Roby Schottke were in favor.

The Grove City Planning Commission on Aug. 6 voted to recommend council approve a preliminary development plan for the project.

The former equestrian-center site is situated west of Hoover Road, north of London-Groveport Road and east of Interstate 71. The land is zoned SD-1 Educational, and the developer is requesting a rezoning to planned-unit-development-commercial and planned-unit-development-residential.

Under the plan, commercial or nonresidential use was proposed for two of four subareas and would include a 20,000-square-foot medical-office building and 15,000-square-foot professional-services building oriented toward the frontage of Orders Road, Kyle Rauch, the city's development director, said.

Apartments were proposed in the largest subarea situated toward the center of the site, he said.

The apartment units would be marketed for young professionals, many of whom likely would work at the nearby Mount Carmel Grove City hospital, said Donald Plank, an attorney representing the applicant.

"We asked Mount Carmel what their employment expectations are and they said 1,700 people," Plank said. "The demand for housing is there."

The Grove City hospital is competing for employees with other hospitals that have housing close by where people can live and walk to work, he said.

Many young professionals are looking for the convenience of not having to drive to their job, Plank said.

In considering the matter, Robinette said, the Grove City 2050 strategic plan adopted in 2018 calls for the area where Bluegrass Park would be located to serve principally as a site where jobs would be generated.

With more than 80% of the development area set aside for residential use, "how are we going to be meeting that goal," he said.

"I just don't know if this is the place for or at least the volume of housing" that is appropriate for the site, Robinette said.

The 2050 plan identifies the site as a mixed-use employment center, Rauch said.

But it also identifies multi-family housing as a secondary use for the area, he said.

"What we've heard from our surrounding employers, mainly Mount Carmel, is that there's a need for workforce type housing," Rauch said. "Although the site as proposed is not overly non-residential, it does serve an economic-development purpose of providing the dwellings necessary to support the workers within the Mount Carmel campus."

"I don't see the forward-thinking in the plan," Berry said. "There's not enough thinking of how we best maximize the space for commercial and offices."

The plan as proposed does not compare favorably to a development such as Grandview Yard in Grandview Heights, which includes a healthy mix of retail, office and residential uses, he said.

With council's rejection, the developer has the option of presenting a revised preliminary development plan.

Buckeye Ranch approached his company about developing the equestrian-center property after the ranch "gained no traction" in its effort to redevelop the site itself, said Jim Schrim, founder and president of Wills Creek Capital Management and BBR Ventures, previously.

"Today the trend in healthcare employment is to do 'transient employment,' so that 20 or 30% of a hospital's staff are rotating through on a six-month stint," he said previously. "As we discussed this project with Mount Carmel, we saw the (available) housing stock was not meeting the need of what their 25- to 40-year-old independent, often single, transient and permanent health-care employees would want."

The preliminary development plan process is designed to get a sense of whether there is an "approval in principle," Plank said.

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