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B.J. Alan seeks Austintown land



Published: Thu, November 12, 2009 @ 12:10 a.m.

By DON SHILLING and ELISE FRANCO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

YOUNGSTOWN — B.J. Alan Co. wants to build a new Phantom Fireworks retail store on Meridian Road, but first it needs the six-acre site it owns to be annexed into Youngstown.

The site, across from the Salt Springs Road Industrial Park, is in Austintown, but the company cannot build a store in the township. Its state license says the store must be in Youngstown because it was issued for the retail store now located downtown in the former Greyhound bus terminal.

The downtown store would be closed if the new one is built, said William Weimer, B.J. Alan vice president and general counsel.

The company filed a petition for the annexation with the Mahoning County commissioners, who will have a hearing on the request.

Austintown Trustee Dave Ditzler said the hearing is in January, and the township board will support the annexation.

“It’s a good project, and it’s not a hostile annexation,” he said. “It’s a property owner looking to do this to meet the legal restrictions of his license.”

The company first brought up the annexation two years ago, and township trustees became concerned that it would lead to other annexation requests.

Trustees proposed creating an economic development district in undeveloped township land near the site so that there would be no further annexation. The district would have allowed the city to charge income tax for workers in the district, but the township would get the property tax on the land.

“We wanted something like a ‘no annexation’ clause for a certain period of time on the two lots behind the property,” Ditzler said. Youngstown wasn’t “willing to agree with anything outside of what their authority gave them the ability to do.”

B.J. Alan has since bought the property.

Weimer said the annexation request never was approved because of debate over the development district, so this time the company filed the request with the county commissioners instead of working through the city and township.

He said company officials would have preferred to avoid annexation by finding a high-visibility site in the city but they were unable to reach a deal on any such site.

Weimer said the Merdian Road location will give the Phantom Fireworks store better access to potential customers because it is located near Interstate 80 as well as Interstate 680.

It also would be larger than the current 2,500-square foot store. The new one would have 5,000 square feet of showroom space, which is the most allowed by state law, Weimer said.

He said the new store, which would cost $1.5 million, would be similar to the one built on Market Street in Beaver Township, although the company’s prototype has changed somewhat. The latest in fire suppression and smoke removal systems would be included, he said.

The Beaver Township store has a total of 13,000 square feet for inventory and offices, but the new store would be slightly smaller because it would not have as much office space, he said.

Weimer said the new store probably would not be completed in time for next year’s summer sales season, but company officials are expecting it to be ready by 2011.

B.J. Alan, which was founded by local entrepreneur Bruce Zoldan, operates 55 retail stores in 13 states and 1,200 temporary stands, primarily in the West.


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