Pickerington Times-Sun

OhioHealth medical campus

Pickerington council meeting yields TIF, impact-fees agreement

By MICHAEL HAYES
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Another round of negotiations last week between the city of Pickerington and OhioHealth resulted in a revised agreement, pertaining to tax-increment financing and impact fees, being approved.

Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray called a special meeting of City Council Friday evening, Aug. 16, for reconsideration of a "term sheet" ordinance outlining the city's commitment for the development of the OhioHealth medical campus.

Council voted 6-0 to approve the ordinance that addresses road and infrastructure improvements related to the impact of development on the 60-acre site located at the intersection of state Route 256 and Refugee Road.

Gray vetoed a previous term sheet ordinance passed by a 4-2 vote of council Aug. 10, declaring the agreement needed to fine-tuned with respect to specific TIF terms in the hopes it would then receive unanimous support.

The new term sheet, as evidenced by the unanimous vote of council, achieved just that, Gray said.

"This is something everyone can live with, especially for (a project) this big," Gray said.

He said the revised term sheet was more palatable to council because it no longer included a "springing TIF" for each parcel OhioHealth could construct, but rather limited the TIF to one building that will be constructed in phase one of the 150,000 square-foot medical campus development.

That building will be the proposed privately-funded medical office building Gray said is expected to cost about $9.5 million to build.

The projected cost to build the entire project in phase one is slated at $42 million.

"Everyone hears $42 million, but the taxable portion is the medical office building," Gray said. "It limits the TIF considerably for when the school board reviews it."

The Pickerington Local School District Board of Education will have to approve the agreement in order for it to go into effect.

Gray said the revised agreement also puts the onus on OhioHealth to construct, at its own expense, a two-lane extension of Stonecreek Drive.

"We'll have two lanes immediately," Gray said.

However, once OhioHealth builds another facility on the property or after eight years of the opening of the first building, Stonecreek Drive will then be widened to three lanes.

Gray said the vetoed agreement entailed Pickerington "pre-committing to a waiver of impact fees."

He said the revised agreement's language provides more flexibility.

"We're not taking away anyone's ability to say 'no' in this (issue)," Gray said.

"Council is more comfortable," he said.

Gray said whether Refugee Road is widened to three or five lanes is yet to be determined.

"It still depends on what the traffic study says, and how much money is available to do the improvements. In a perfect world we want five lanes," he said.

Gray said "development should pay for itself."

"When we do a TIF it is for the public good," he said. "Here we're redirecting tax dollars limited to the Refugee Road area."

Sean Huffman, president of OhioHealth Neighborhood Care, said his organization was "pleased with the unanimous vote."

"We're proud to work with the mayor, City Council and city administration to advance the project tonight," said Huffman, who added a unanimous vote should also " help us gain support from the (school board)."

Huffman said OhioHealth anticipates breaking ground on the project once it receives excavation permits from the city.

"We're following the permitting process -- the traffic study, the final plat review, it's all in the works," Huffman said.

"As long as we go through the proper process, (the city) pledged to help us expedite (construction)," he said.

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