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HUBBARD Delay in plaza frustrates officials



Published: Mon, April 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Local officials say they were told a year ago a traffic study wasn't needed.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HUBBARD -- City and township officials are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they view as state hurdles blocking construction of a truck plaza.

Flying J Travel Plaza wants to build an $8.5 million facility on a 25-acre site in Hubbard Township on the west side of state routes 7/62, just north of Interstate 80.

Township trustee Fred Hanley has put the benefits at $30,000 to $32,000 annually to the township in property taxes, $131,000 annually to the Hubbard School District and $22,000 per year in income revenue for the city.

The state, Mayor George Praznik has said, would get about $1.2 million a year from taxes on fuel sold there.

What's holding it up

One roadblock, Hanley and Praznik say, is a decision by the Ohio Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study of the area to determine the design of a turning lane from 7/62 into the plaza.

Jennifer Richmond, spokeswoman for ODOT's District 4 office in Ravenna, said the need for the study is "not definite" and all parties involved have been asked to attend a meeting Thursday in Ravenna to discuss it.

Praznik and Hanley said local officials were told by ODOT a year ago a study wasn't needed.

The trustee explained ODOT said at the time that Flying J's own traffic statistics would be used in designing the turning lane.

Praznik has taken the lead in resolving the problem with an April 5 letter to Gov. Bob Taft, in which he points out the economic benefit the state would gain and asking the governor to get the project rolling.

"It seems to me that the right foot doesn't know what the left foot is doing," Praznik wrote Taft.

"I'm frustrated," Hanley said.

Praznik characterizes the frustration as being unbelievable.

The mayor said the area is depressed and "we've got to fight for everything," noting the truck plaza would provide 160 jobs.

Notice from Ohio EPA

On April 10, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice that it has begun determining if a permit to construct the plaza will be issued.

The EPA is concerned about wetlands to the rear of the property, adjacent to an unnamed tributary of Little Yankee Run.

The agency's notice says the facility would worsen the water quality of Little Yankee Run and provides 30 days for those involved in the project to respond.

Hanley said he has prepared a letter to the EPA that will maintain that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has determined the wetland is actually runoff from coal mining.

Hanley pointed out the water there is orange because of iron in the old mines.

Solutions, the trustee said, include piping or buying wetlands from another community to assure the amount of wetlands in the region is not decreased.

Praznik said the water is generated from a mine, not a natural wetlands.

He assured, however, that Flying J is prepared to do whatever is needed to resolve the matter.

yovich@vindy.com




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