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AUSTINTOWN With vote denied, park is on track



Published: Fri, February 28, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Park opponents haven't decided if they will take the elections board to court.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

AUSTINTOWN -- Jonathan Levy has high expectations for the 189 wooded acres that lie just north of Richard and Kathy Bell's Rutland Avenue home. The land is slated to be the site of Centerpointe business park, which Levy is developing.

"We're going to do this the right way," Levy said. "It's going to be a first-class project and it's something that the community's going to be proud of. There's a lot of good things that are going to happen."

Richard Bell is more pragmatic. "Time will tell. If you listen to Levy he paints a pretty picture," Bell said. "We'll have to see what it looks like."

Bell was among township residents who wanted to vote on a zone change that cleared the way for the development of Centerpointe between state Routes 46 and 11 along Interstate 80.

Austintown's Concerned Citizens, a group opposed to the park, had helped collect 1,948 signatures on petitions to place the zone change on the November ballot.

Petitions disqualified

The Mahoning County Board of Elections disqualified the petitions Thursday because of improper language and removed the question from the ballot. The petitions were ruled invalid because they contained language describing election falsification as a misdemeanor and not a felony.

That could mean the end of what has been an extremely contentious debate over the development.

Meetings about the park have been marked by yelling and cursing, and people on both sides have said they've received threats.

"They're misinformed people," West Viola Drive resident Frank Moran said of those opposed to the park. "It's just creating a big problem for the developer."

Levy said infrastructure for the park could start next year. He has said the park could be the site of $45 million in warehouses, retail businesses and offices, creating 1,000 to 1,500 jobs over 10 years.

Opposing views

Some residents worry the park could cause drainage, traffic and noise problems, destroy the natural setting and decrease the neighboring property values.

Others have said the park will be a welcome addition.

"I think it's important for Austintown's future," Trustee Bo Pritchard said. "Every indication is [Levy] does a top-notch job."

The only choice left for those who oppose the Centerpointe project is to seek a court order to overturn the board's decision. ACC members said they will talk to their attorney, Alan Wenger of Youngstown.

Some residents were surprised that the petitions were disqualified.

"After all this time, I thought the that the petitions were done," Bell said. The petitions were submitted Dec. 14.

Gary Prest of Benton Avenue said he was shocked by the election board's vote. "I would've liked to have voted on it," he said. "I guess we don't get that chance now."

hill@vindy.com




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