Rift widens between Youngstown council, thrift store owners

By David Skolnick

By David Skolnick



The attorney for owners of a West Side thrift store shut down by Youngstown officials wants city council to decide the fate of the business.

But since the planning commission rejected a request for a waiver Nov. 20 to keep the store open, city council has taken no action. There is no plan for council, which has the final say on granting waivers, to consider it, said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, whose ward is where the Family Outreach Thrift Shop at 2828 Mahoning Ave. was located.

The owners opened the store in November without the waiver or an occupancy permit. A waiver is needed from the city planning commission to open a secondhand store, which is considered “regulated use” under city zoning code.

That term includes strip clubs, bars, tattoo parlors, payday lending businesses, pool halls and secondhand stores. Those wanting to open those businesses are required to receive approval from the planning commission if it is located within 500 feet of another regulated use.

“There’s a saturation of secondhand stores in that area, and this would give it a skid-row appearance,” Ray said. “The owners weren’t responsible in following the process.”

Alden Chevlen, attorney for John A. Zucco, and his son, John F. Zucco, who co-own the business, questioned the “skid-row” statement. Chevlen points to a tattoo parlor next to a bar on West Federal Street as an example of the lack of interest the planning commission and city council have of protecting the public or preventing “the development of a skid-row area in the central business district.”

After the commission rejected the waiver, the Zuccos kept operating the business before the city shut it down again, Ray said. Chevelen said the store didn’t reopen after the planning commission rejected the waiver.

State law requires city council to uphold or reject the planning commission’s recommendation, Chevlen said.

“Council should say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’” he said. “My clients lost the store and are out of business. They’re being denied their right to have council consider the” commission’s recommendation.

“Generally, when the commission denies a waiver, council affirms the decision by not taking action,” Ray said. “I suppose we could [vote], but there’s a precedent on denying a business in this manner. If they want us to [vote], they can take us to civil court.”

The Zuccos owned a secondhand store for 15 years at another nearby location before deciding to move to Mahoning Avenue, Chevlen said.

The older Zucco is in the hospital with health problems related to losing the store, Chevlen said.

“All of this is giving him a nervous breakdown,” Chevlen said.

Meanwhile, his son was indicted Jan. 31 by a Mahoning County grand jury on a criminal count of receiving stolen property. The indictment contends that between March 6, 2012, and Aug. 22, 2012, he received jewelry worth between $7,500 and $150,000 that he “knew or had reasonable cause to believe” was obtained by theft.

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