AUSTINTOWN Plastic development sign has got to go, say residents

A developer has offered to pay half the cost of constructing a nicer sign.
AUSTINTOWN -- The signs pointed to a dispute between township trustees here and residents of the Countryside development off South Turner Road.
At the heart of the dispute, and in the middle of Countryside Boulevard, is a green plastic sign that reads "Countryside Estates, Est. 1989." The township trustees recently purchased and installed the $2,500 sign using a Mahoning County Green Team grant.
Above the sign this week was a red-and-black banner that stated, "This 'CLASSY' sign is compliments of our trustees, Larry, Curly & amp; Moe." Under the sign was a separate poster that listed the time and location of Monday's trustees meeting.
The poster stated, "It's all up to us."
About 30 Countryside residents attended the meeting to express concerns about the plastic sign. The residents said they felt the sign was unsightly.
Developer will pay half
Michael Creatore, a Countryside Boulevard resident, asked the trustees to try and set up a meeting between the residents and builder Joe Koch to discuss installing a different sign for the development.
Koch had constructed some of the houses in the development. He stressed that he is responsible for individual lots and not the entire development.
Creatore said Rick Salata, the developer of Countryside, has agreed to pay for half of the cost of a new sign.
Creatore has said the Countryside residents would like to have a brick sign similar to those at the entrance to many of the developments on New Road. He estimated that the sign would cost between $8,000 and $10,000.
Trustees, however, said they didn't think they're responsible for setting up the meeting with Koch. They said the residents should form a homeowners association to try to solve their sign problems.
"You are asking us to do something that has nothing to do with this board," Trustee Bo Pritchard said to the residents.
A $30 million development
Creatore added that he thinks Countryside residents deserve consideration from the trustees because they may pay more in taxes than other township residents. He has repeatedly noted that Countryside is a $30 million development.
"The rich folks don't get more," Pritchard responded. "We are not going to treat Countryside any different than anyone else."
The meeting was contentious at times, as Pritchard and fellow trustee David Ditzler raised their voices to argue with Creatore and other residents. Ditzler accused Creatore of using the sign issue to further a political agenda.
Creatore had been the campaign manager for Lisa Oles when she unsuccessfully ran for township trustee. Oles, who also lives in Countryside, was at the meeting.
"There is no political agenda here at all," Creatore stressed. "We're just basic residents asking for their help. These signs are a poor reflection on the community."
Ditzler noted that the trustees erected similar signs at the entrance to College Park and several other township developments. He said the trustees decided to "rename the community" about three years ago by purchasing entrance signs for developments that had no such signs.
"We had people who lived in the area for 30 to 40 years and had no idea where they live," Ditzler said. "I take pride in the signs."
Trustees noted that in the past some brick development signs have been damaged in car accidents. Township officials haven't been able to determine who should pay for the repairs.

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