Rezoning issue to come before council next month

Wick Neighbors envisions a $250 million revitalization plan for the area near YSU.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The next stop is city council for a major rezoning proposal for the Wick District-Smoky Hollow area.
City Council Clerk Arlene Thompson-Bahar held a public hearing Tuesday for the zone change request. The city's planning commission recommended the change June 21. A public hearing is required after a zoning proposal is heard by the planning commission and before council can vote on it.
Council is scheduled to meet Sept. 21, but the legislative body is expected to hold a special meeting before that. At least six of the seven-member council would have to vote to overturn a planning commission recommendation.
At Tuesday's public hearing, four people spoke in favor of the zone change, including Margaret Murphy. She is the executive director of Wick Neighbors Inc., the nonprofit agency in charge of the project. No one at the hearing spoke against the change.
What project will entail
Wick Neighbors envisions a $250 million plan to revive the city's Wick District-Smoky Hollow area, bounded by Wick, Andrews, Rayen and Madison avenues.
The proposal includes a three-acre park; about 500 townhouses, condominiums, single-family homes and apartments; commercial and retail space; senior citizen housing; and office space. The goal is to start construction next year, Murphy said.
The organization is working closely with the city and institutions in the area such as the public library, churches, museums and Youngstown State University, Murphy said. YSU owns about 70 percent of the property in the Wick District-Smoky Hollow area.
Wick Neighbors wants council to change the zoning of the 66-acre area to planned development overlay. That designation would permit the site to be rezoned at once rather than through a piecemeal process.
The area is zoned general residential, industrial limited and institutional.
If council approved the change, it would be only the second overlay zoning classification the city has given. The first was to Mahoning County Chemical Dependency Program Inc. on Vestal Road.
Wick Neighbors is discussing infrastructure improvements, with a price tag of about $5.5 million, needed for the development project to proceed, Murphy said. The city and/or Wick Neighbors would need to apply and obtain funding from the state and/or federal government for the improvements.
Also, the organization is planning to release requests for proposals this fall for developers interested in the project, Murphy said. Wick Neighbors is holding discussions with developers from Northeast Ohio as well as New York and Tennessee, she said.

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