You can blame farmer Harvey Lutz for this stinkin’ column. Had Lutz not been such a party pooper when it comes to some of his neighbors in Lordstown, this writer would today be waxing eloquent about the upcoming election.
Instead, there’s an urgent need to discuss the crappy state of affairs surrounding the battle to keep HomeGoods from shelving plans to build a $160 million, 1.2-million-square-foot distribution center on land in Lordstown across the way from General Motors’ huge car manufacturing complex.
On one side of the battle are the farmer Lutz and other proponents of the project, including Lordstown Village Mayor Arno Hill, most members of council, government officials throughout the Mahoning Valley and business and community leaders.
On the other side of the battle are residents who object to HomeGoods setting its sights on seven parcels of land currently zoned residential. The giant national company needs the properties to be rezoned industrial.
Lutz, who operates Lutz Farms in this region, owns one of the parcels.
He was the verge of seeking the zone change when the opposition issued a public warning that a vote of the people would be sought in November if the zoning changes were approved.
Officials of HomeGoods subsequently announced that the company is now reassessing its decision to build the distribution center in Lordstown.
And that is when the excrement hit the fan – in a manner of speaking.
Lutz decided that the residents who were standing in the way of the 1,000 jobs the HomeGoods facility would create needed to find out just how fowl things could get.
He announced that he plans to establish a huge poultry farm featuring more than 100,000 chickens and lots of feed.
So, what do you get when you have thousands of birds eating their fill to get them ready for market?
That’s right, mountains of stinking, steamy bird ----.
When the wind blows, the smell will waft over the homes that the residents are so determined to protect from the HomeGoods distribution center.
And it won’t be like walking into a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
“I thought maybe this would make them think a little bit, at least entertain the idea of TJX,” Lutz told Vindicator reporter Jordyn Grzelewski.
TJX owns HomeGoods and other retail outlets, including Marshalls and TJ Maxx.
The reaction from at least one member of the opposition to wFarmer Lutz’s chicken farm was surprisingly nonchalant. She said she didn’t think having thousands of chickens in close proximity to homes would be a problem.
She should talk to someone who has lived in the South and the Midwest about the smells and sounds of poultry farms in the middle of the summer when the sun beats down relentlessly.
It’s advised that you roll up your car windows as you drive by. No, it isn’t like having a couple of chickens in the backyard.
What Lutz is planning in Lordstown – the chicken manure will be used as fertilizer for the soybean and corn crops he grows on his Warren Township farms – may make him a party pooper in the eyes of the residents.
But as he told reporter Grzelewski, he would prefer to sell the land to HomeGoods for the distribution center. But if that doesn’t work out, he needs a Plan B.
Company officials have been tight-lipped about their intentions in the aftermath of the threat by residents to pursue a referendum vote if the rezoning occurs.
Nonetheless, there’s a rally today in Lordstown in support of the project. Organizers hope TJX will get the message that this region is ready to do whatever is necessary to land the distribution center.
The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the village’s track/soccer complex on Salt Springs Road.
But there’s an interesting aspect to this battle that does require some exploration. Here’s what Lutz told The Vindicator:
“I’ve owned that property for 28, 30 years. Every couple years, somebody comes to town and is interested in it.”
Every time, however, it falls through, he said.
Lutz said that is due in part to the area’s zoning, which he believes should have been changed to commercial or industrial when the turnpike gate was put in.
His parcel is zoned agricultural/residential.
Lutz said it’s not a residential setting, and therefore, the only other use for the land if the HomeGoods proposal falls through is agriculture.
Lutz’s comment prompts this question: Did anyone warn HomeGoods that rezoning the seven parcels would not be a walk in the park?