Business to relocate; back-rent settlement will be negotiated
By David Skolnick
A.P. O’Horo has operated a gravel-making facility on city-owned property for seven years without a lease and without paying rent.
Furthermore, the property is zoned residential and institutional.
After city officials learned this about six months ago, they started talking with the business owners about relocating the facility somewhere else in Youngstown and figuring out how much O’Horo owes in back rent.
O’Horo hasn’t crushed construction material, including concrete, at his industrial aggregate processing facility at that Albert Street location for six to eight months, according to Mayor Charles Sammarone. It has until Dec. 1 to leave the property or “an eviction action may be initiated against it,” said city Law Director Anthony Farris.
The city has “reached a tentative understanding” with O’Horo to relocate the aggregate processing operation to the former YBM Corp. site on Logan Avenue and Hubbard Road; that site has been vacant since 1989, Farris said.
City council is being asked by Sammarone to approve legislation at its Wednesday meeting to permit the board of control to negotiate and enter into an agreement to sell four acres of the former YBM site to O’Horo for about $40,000, come to a settlement on the back rent, and possibly buy the gravel at the Albert Street property to be used by the city for excavation backfill for sewer repairs.
O’Horo operated an aggregate processing plant on Oak Hill Avenue for years on property partly owned by the company and the city until city officials forced a move by not renewing the lease there because of noise and zoning issues, Farris and Sammarone said.
O’Horo was paying $2,100 a year to the city for the Oak Hill location, which was smaller than the land on Albert Street, and only a portion is owned by the city, Farris said.
“It ended up on Albert Street with no lease and not zoned” properly, Farris said.
Sammarone and Farris said they don’t know why the city’s economic development office, which found the Albert Street location for O’Horo seven years ago, failed to enter into a lease agreement and why no rent was ever paid.
“It was wrong, we found out and we’ve corrected it,” Sammarone said.
Attempts to reach Daniel J. O’Horo, the company’s chairman, on Monday by The Vindicator were unsuccessful.
“Dec. 1 is the deadline,” Sammarone said. “This is not new. They knew it was coming.”
Besides the gravel that the city is interested in purchasing, the property also includes a loader machine that crushes the construction material and turns it into gravel, Sammarone said. It shouldn’t be difficult to move the machine, he said.
“We’re working out a plan to solve the problem,” Sammarone said. “They seem reasonable and it will be resolved. I don’t want to drive business out of the city. We want to keep the company, but they can’t stay there.”
The noise and dust problems at O’Horo’s business on Albert Street started when it opened, said city Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, who represents that area, and received numerous complaints from constituents about the plant since then.
After discussions on the problems with the company, Gillam said the processing work at night stopped about three years ago.
The dust issue was largely resolved afterwards when O’Horo agreed to water down the concrete when it was being processed, she said.
Gillam said she dealt directly with O’Horo before finally bringing the problem to the attention of the city’s code-enforcement department about a year ago.
That led to the agreement to have O’Horo move.
“I figured I could talk to them and they’d do the right thing,” Gillam said of O’Horo. “They’d stop for a while. We’d get results sometimes. But they just weren’t listening, like a lot of businesses. They’d promise to do a lot of things, but then they” wouldn’t follow through.
“It’s that attitude that they could do anything they want.”
If O’Horo moves to the former YBM site, it would be the first business on that 9.31-acre site since YBM, a ready-mix concrete company, left in 1989.
The site had asbestos removed and a building demolished in 2009 at a cost of about $1.1 million with $854,935 coming from a state grant and the rest coming from the city.