The Mahoning County Planning Commission has endorsed a proposed new section of the Austintown zoning code that would be devoted exclusively to massage-parlor regulation.
Darren Crivelli, township zoning inspector, said Tuesday that the new section would clarify Austintown’s regulations concerning such establishments and eliminate ambiguities in the code.
It would specify new prohibitions against electronic signs, flashing strobe lights and portable signs for such establishments and limit the parlors to a single 40-square-foot sign on each of their walls.
The township permits such establishments in industrially zoned areas and in properties fronting state Route 46 that are within 4,000 feet north or south of Interstate 80.
The township, however, now has only one massage parlor, and it is on 76 Drive, Crivelli said.
Austintown once had eight to 10 such establishments, but, using undercover raids, police closed most of them after lodging drug and prostitution charges against people alleged to have been associated with them, Crivelli said.
“These massage parlors have documented, negative, secondary effects,” Crivelli told the commission. “These are not beneficial to the community, either the business community or the residential community,” he added.
Crivelli said federal court decisions, however, prevent the township from completely banning massage parlors.
David Ditzler, chairman of the county commissioners and a former Austintown trustee, made the motion to endorse the proposed new massage-parlor section. It was seconded by County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti, before receiving a unanimous favorable vote.
The proposed new massage-parlor section goes before the Austintown Zoning Commission at 6 p.m. Thursday at the township hall. It then will go before the township trustees. If trustees adopt the new section, it will take effect 30 days later.
In other action, the planning commission endorsed a proposal by Sarah Gartland, Boardman zoning inspector, to rezone 245 lots on Glenridge and Mathews roads, Larkridge and Ridgefield avenues, Edenridge Drive, and Midwood Circle from residential R-2 to R-1.
R-2 allows up to six-plexes; R-1 is single-family residential.
“This is the next neighborhood area in our plan to rezone areas that are already single-family homes to single-family zoning,” Gartland told the commission.
“This is Heathercrest and the very northern part of the Applewood Estates, Applewood Acres area,” she said of the area under consideration.
“This is a neighborhood where we do have a lot of vacant homes, a lot of foreclosures, and we are concerned about these larger houses being converted into multiplexes. The character of the neighborhood is decidedly single-family, so we’re just looking for the zoning to match,” she explained.
The township already has made this R-2 to R-1 change on about 1,200 other lots.
The goal of such rezoning is to stabilize neighborhoods, maintain their single-family residential character and to prevent the creation of new apartment buildings that would increase traffic and housing density, Gartland said.