ZONING ISSUE Business owner squares off with residents
The company 's CEO called residents' criticism 'nothing but lies.'
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- A police officer separated a businessman and a local resident on the steps of township hall Monday night during a heated argument about a proposed zoning change.
"If you want us out, why don't you get $5 million and buy us out!" said Dan Sebastiani, CEO of Sebastiani Trucking on Ohltown Road, pointing at Ohltown Road resident Ron Solinger.
Patrol Officer John Kaminsky, who was at township hall to serve as sergeant-at-arms for Monday night's township trustees meeting, stepped between Sebastiani and Solinger and led Sebastiani to his car.
"You got a big mouth!" Sebastiani yelled on the way to his car.
"I don't have a big mouth! You've got a big mouth!" Solinger shouted back.
A few minutes earlier, at the close of a contentious 45-minute public hearing, trustees had voted 3-0 to deny Sebastiani Trucking's request to rezone 42 acres of residential and agricultural land on Ohltown Road southwest of the Interstate 80 overpass for industrial use. Several of about 20 residents at the meeting had expressed concerns about the proposed change and complained that Sebastiani Trucking was not maintaining the property it now uses on Ohltown Road. Residents also said that Sebastiani trucks often speed on the road.
"These trucks just fly up and down the road," said Ohltown resident Harvey Crowley. "They need to clean up their act before they can expand."
Ohltown resident Floyd Stephens added, "We don't mind progress, we're not against progress, it's nice to have businesses in the township, but not at the expense of homeowners."
Sebastiani disputed the residents' claims.
"I've never heard so many lies in my life," he said. "Nothing but lies, nothing but lies."
Sebastiani Trucking President Emilio Sebastiani said that the company's trucks have never received a speeding ticket on Ohltown Road and that the company has allowed police to set up speed traps on its property. Emilio Sebastiani also said that the company did not own the property that residents say is not being maintained, noting "My trucking company, I believe, is in better shape than a lot of residents' homes.
"We are the cleanest neighbors that have ever been here. We're an asset to the neighborhood. Some of your houses should be condemned. I'm the one who should be complaining," Emilio Sebastiani told the residents at the meeting.
Atty. Donald Hepfner, who represents Sebastiani Trucking, said he and his client would discuss appealing the trustees' decision to Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Hepfner said the company hoped to expand on to three acres of the property and use it to store trucks.
Sebastiani Trucking "thought it would be a good thing for the area. That's one thing this area needs is jobs," said Hepfner, noting that the company has about 40 employees. "Obviously, they're not very happy about" the trustees' decision, he said.
The township zoning office has previously cited Sebastiani for storing trucks on the property while it was zoned for agricultural and residential use.
Trustee David Ditzler said that while he believed "trucks make the world go 'round," he was concerned that rezoning the property now might allow a less desirable industrial company to move onto it in the future. Trustee Bo Pritchard added that he thought the property was better suited to a planned unit development that could serve as a controlled buffer between homes and companies in the area.
The township zoning commission had recommended that trustees deny the request, while the Mahoning County Planning Commission had recommended approval.