Grove City Council delays vote on funding Arbutus Avenue project

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

The approval of funding for a project to address residents' concerns about the size of a planned Grove City Town Center park project is being delayed in part to allow for more time to gather additional input from residents.

Grove City Council on Dec. 7 agreed to postpone until March 1, 2021, its consideration of legislation to appropriate $250,000 for a project to remove a portion of Arbutus Avenue.

Grove City Hall

The section of Arbutus lies between the former Grove City Library site on Park Street and a parcel of vacant land owned by the city to the east of the library site.

When OHM Advisors presented to council a conceptual plan for the park Oct. 19, the project included only the library site.

Residents participating in that virtual council meeting expressed their dismay that the park plan had not included the parcel to the east to provide a larger space for a park and performance space as they had anticipated it would.

Council member Ted Berry sponsored the legislation that was up for a second reading and vote at the Dec. 7 meeting. The ordinance would authorize the transfer of $250,000 from the general fund to the capital-improvements fund to pay for the cost of the Arbutus project.

More:Design for Grove City Town Center park to include land east of Arbutus

EMH&T estimated the cost of removing the portion of Arbutus and some additional improvements at $244,577.

Several council members said consideration of the appropriation ordinance should be delayed until a clearer picture of the components of the Town Center park design emerges.

"What I'm a little concerned about is duplicating the same type of work and the redundancy of it," council member Roby Schottke said. "We do (something at the site) and then we go back and do something else, and if we would have just waited a bit longer, we could have incorporated both of those things (together.)"

When council approved the concept of a park for the old library site in November 2019, many participants in the discussion referred to how a public-participation process and the still-to-be finalized Town Center conceptual framework should be included in the planning of the park project, council president Christine Houk said.

"We're not there yet" to be in a position to appropriate the $250,000 "before we go through the three things that were key in the original conversation," including "a true planning process, a public-participation process and the completion of the Town Center conceptual framework, which is key to several projects in the area," she said.

As much as he likes the idea of creating a full 3-acre park without a road going through it, authorizing the funding for the Arbutus project now would be "putting the cart before the horse," council member Aaron Schlabach said.

"I agree with it in spirit, but before we make any large expenditures regarding the future of this property, we need to have a finalized idea of what that means, as opposed to parceling it together over time and hoping it works out without having to double back and spend more money," he said.

Berry said he wants to avoid having the city spend the time and money on another study of an issue when, in this case, the consensus seems clear that the two parcels should be connected by removing part of Arbutus to create a larger park space.

"My logic is one piece of land together is open space we didn't have before that we can be utilizing right now. There will be other things put on the property eventually with other amenities," Berry said. "The premise of this legislation was to assemble the land, put it into place and let people use it until we can decide and afford to put what we need to on it."

Delaying the vote on funding the Arbutus project for three months will give the city time to schedule a public meeting to focus solely on this issue and to get more feedback from the community before the council takes action, Berry said.

The Town Center framework is essentially 98% completed, Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said. 

The framework was embodied to some degree in the presentation OHM had made in October, but the delay will allow the document to be fully included in the process and help give residents a better understanding of how the Town Center park would be part of "a big picture" that includes a proposed promenade for First Street and other plans for "open spaces, venues and amphitheaters" at Beulah Park and in the Town Center, he said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman