You didn’t protect us, Lordstown residents tell mayor
By Kalea Hall
Tension between a group of about 100 concerned residents and Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill was strong during a private meeting about TJX Companies’ plan to bring a distribution center to the village.
“You are dutily sworn to protect the residents and the community of Lords-town, and I don’t know about anybody else in this room, but I get the impression that you are more concerned about protecting TJX than you are the people in this room,” said Kathy Dickson of the Lordstown Concerned Residents group.
The room erupted with applause.
“I feel I have represented the people,” Hill said in response. “I am not going to make everyone happy, no matter what I do.”
The group had a private, invitation-only meeting Wednesday night at the Lordstown Administration Center’s Community Room to discuss viable industrial properties where a 1.2-million-square-foot HomeGoods warehouse/distribution center could be built. Currently, HomeGoods, which is a part of TJX Companies, wants to build the center on 290 acres of land on Ellsworth-Bailey Road that are all zoned residential.
All of the land is up to be rezoned from residential to industrial for the project, and residents nearby are concerned about the taking of residential land when they say there’s industrial property that could be used. People have expressed concern about the project since its public unveiling in March. Residents have a list of concerns from effect on their property values to flooding and the impact on the local environment.
The mayor was told he should have shut down the project when he found out about it earlier in the year.
“I didn’t have the right to shut it down,” Hill said. “I wish I had the power some of the people in this audience thought I had, because I don’t.”
Lordstown Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to review the zone change requests. A vote may or may not take place at the meeting.
The resident group also plans to bring to attention industrial properties that the company should consider for the project at that meeting.
The properties the residents want HomeGoods to consider are the NorthPoint site on Tod Avenue, Norfolk Southern Site on Ellsworth Bailey Road, a combination of five industrial sites in Lordstown and an Ohio Commerce Center site.
“I do think there are other viable properties,” Dickson said.
A representative from Ohio Commerce told the group Wednesday that the Ohio Commerce site would not work for the HomeGoods project.
Earlier this month, HomeGoods said “based on environmental, roadway access, site configuration or timeline concerns,” the company believes that the Ellsworth-Bailey Road site “remains the best possible location in the area for our new distribution center.”
After the planning commission approves the zone changes, they will go to council. If village council opposes the planning commission, five votes are needed to overturn the commission decision.
If council approves the zoning changes, a group of village residents said they plan to initiate a referendum to force those changes to a vote.