By a unanimous voice vote, the Mahoning County Planning Commission approved the rezoning of about 33 acres along Interstate Boulevard from industrial to business to keep the area’s land use compatible with current enterprises.
The matter will go before the Austintown Zoning Commission at 6 p.m. Thursday at the township hall on Ohltown Road and before the township trustees for a July public hearing and their final approval.
The zoning-change proposal, initiated by a resolution of the trustees, is designed to prevent incompatible establishments from locating in the area adjacent to the hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and the Infocision call center already on the boulevard, said Darren L. Crivelli, township zoning inspector, who presented the proposal to the planning commission.
On industrially zoned land, “You could have an automobile wrecking yard. You can have an aluminum extrusion factory. Anything with outdoor industrial storage would be permitted. And we don’t feel, with the investment that’s been made down there, that that is compatible with the existing businesses,” Crivelli told the commission Tuesday.
Crivelli also noted the township permits sexually oriented businesses on all industrially zoned land and in a designated corridor fronting along state Route 46 (Canfield-Niles Road).
If the Interstate Boulevard land stays industrially zoned, a sexually oriented business could open there, Crivelli said.
Although the township may legally impose location restrictions on such businesses, the courts will not allow the township to ban them completely, Crivelli explained.
“We want to protect this area. We want the future investment to remain as is,” Crivelli said of the boulevard land to be rezoned. The boulevard is adjacent to the busy interchange of Interstate 80 and state Route 46.
Michael O’Shaughnessy, planning commission executive director, said the commission deferred its vote until Tuesday because commission members asked Crivelli at last month’s commission meeting to notify all property owners in the area to be rezoned of the proposed change.
Crivelli reported he had made the notifications and received one comment in favor of the proposal.
Crivelli said he has approved a site plan for a new, four-story, 87-room, Home 2 Suites by Hilton hotel that would be built on the boulevard by the locally based Meander Hospitality Group this year.
“I’m sure they don’t want to put up a four-story hotel and then have their clients looking out the window at a junk yard,” Crivelli told the commission.
The zoning change on 11 land parcels and a portion of a 12th would be in the shadows of the racino at Route 46 and Silica Road, for which site preparation is nearing completion and on which construction begins later this summer. The racino, known as the Hollywood at Mahoning Valley Race Course, will open next year.
“It makes it more restrictive on adult-entertainment businesses, specifically massage parlors and strip clubs,” Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said of the zone change. “I don’t think people would like to see strip clubs and massage parlors when they’re driving in to go to the casino.”
“We’re just trying to do everything that we can, legislatively, to create the most-positive business climate we can down there,” Crivelli added.