Developers seeking to build a $3-million indoor soccer complex, along with office and commercial centers off Refugee Road, received initial approvals last week from Pickerington City Council.

Developers seeking to build a $3-million indoor soccer complex, along with office and commercial centers off Refugee Road, received initial approvals last week from Pickerington City Council.

Council voted unanimously April 20 in favor of the first reading of legislation to rezone 16.06 acres along Refugee Road just west of Hill Road Plaza from residential to a planned community commercial district for construction of a 115,000-square-foot indoor soccer complex.

In doing so, council also initially approved Homestead Development Co.'s final development plans for the complex, which will house four indoor soccer fields, and plans to build a 65,000-square-foot office center and 28,000-square-foot commercial plaza.

The project is being proposed on land owned by the Ebright family. Two more approvals will be needed before construction can start behind the former Big Bear shopping center on Refugee Road.

Pickerington Mayor Mitch O'Brien said the city continues to discuss Homestead's offer to fund the installation of extra turn lanes to both Refugee and state Route 256, and at least a portion of the planned extension of Windmiller Drive to Stonecreek Drive.

In return for financing the road improvements, the company is seeking a tax-increment financing agreement with the city where it would pay for the infrastructure improvements in lieu of property taxes.

"(City) staff is still negotiating with their attorneys," O'Brien said.

Homestead officials didn't speak at the April 20 meeting. However, Aaron Underhill, an attorney for the company, said last month that once the soccer complex is completed, it's expected to be rented to the Pickerington Area Soccer Association for indoor leagues and other activities.

Additional phases of the project call for construction of a $9-million office development just south of the soccer complex and a $5-million to $5.5-million commercial development that could house stores and restaurants fronting Refugee Road.

No one spoke in support or opposition of the proposed development during an approximately 20-minute public hearing prior to council's vote on the rezoning and development plans.

Fairfield Square resident Patrice Hess sought clarification about the location of the proposed development, as well as what types of commercial tenants it would house and how it might affect local drainage.

Pickerington planning and zoning director Lance Shultz said the commercial portion of the development could include anything from department stores to fast-food restaurants.

City engineer Greg Bachman said building restrictions prohibit developers from creating worse drainage issues than already exist.

"Basically, the drainage after development, the peak, has to be less and that all drains to the west," he said.

Melanie Wollenberg, a representative of Equity, a Columbus-based development company, said her company also plans to build a one- to two-story development neighboring the proposed Homestead project.

She asked the city to require Homestead to place landscaping behind its proposed development.

"They're going to have a 45-foot tall building and I just want to make sure there's landscaping behind that building," she said. "We're willing to landscape on our side. We'd like to see them landscape behind their building because it will be a tall, mammoth building."

nellis@thisweeknews.com