Referendum to determine fate of TJX project in Lordstown

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By the end of the day, the community will know whether plans to build a TJX HomeGoods center in the village will move forward.

Village residents today will vote in a referendum on village council’s rezoning from residential to industrial for seven parcels on Hallock Young and Ellsworth Bailey roads for the project. The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. All voting will take place at the village administration center, 1455 Salt Spring Road.

Individuals on both sides of the issue urged voters to get out to the polls.

Mayor Arno Hill, Trumbull County commissioners, and state elected officials reiterated that message again and again at a rally in support of the TJX project Monday at the United Auto Workers Local 1714 hall on Salt Springs Road.

“This election has probably more underlying consequences than any in recent memory,” said county Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa. “Let’s get out the vote, and make sure we do this.”

Also speaking at Monday’s rally were Hill, county commissioners Dan Polivka and Frank Fuda, state Sen. Sean O’Brien of Bazetta, D-32nd, state Rep. Glenn Holmes of McDonald, D-63rd, a representative of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and two village residents.

Several noted the estimated 1,000 jobs TJX says the $170 million project will create, saying they are especially needed in light of job losses in other Mahoning Valley industries.

“We see what’s happening with the hospital [Northside Regional Medical Center] closing down. We see what’s happening at GM, with some cutbacks,” said O’Brien, referring to the General Motors Lordstown plant cutting two shifts. “We have to show the world we’re open for business.”

Opponents to the TJX project, however, say the chosen site is not right for the project due to its residential zoning, possible impact on nearby neighborhoods, and the availability of other sites that already were zoned industrial. A group that opposes the zone changes collected 1,107 valid signatures to get the referendum on the ballot.

Several people at Monday’s rally also noted the impact the project could have on other economic development projects.

“We are the focus of a lot of attention right now, and a lot of curiosity outside the market. Other companies we’re working with right now are watching the vote,” said Lauren Johnson, manager of the Route 422 project and business development for the regional chamber. “This certainly reflects on the entire Valley on whether we’re welcoming” to business.

The dozens of supporters who attended the rally were urged not only to vote, but to get their friends, neighbors and relatives to vote, too.

“This can’t just win marginally,” said Holmes, noting the economic development projects the chamber has in the works. “It’s critically important that you get out and vote. Make sure your neighbors and friends get out to vote.”

Also speaking in support of the project was Hallock Young Road resident Fred Price, who said he thinks the project is badly needed for the community’s tax base.

“I would say it would be good for you to go out and vote yes,” he told the crowd.

Although she is on the opposite side of the issue, village councilwoman Karen Jones urged residents to vote, too.

“Everybody needs to get out and vote their conscience,” she told The Vindicator.

Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan urged Lordstown voters to support the referendum.

“This will be a huge boom to the Valley; 1,000 jobs,” Ryan of Howland, D-13th, said, standing outside Starbucks on state Route 46 in Austintown.

It’s “a lot of private-sector investment. With all the uncertainty going on in Lords-

town right now, this would be something that would secure them well into the future.”

Coordinated by the chamber, the Cafaro Co. is sponsoring a free ride service to the polls for voters. Any voter who needs a ride should contact Trumbull County Transit at 330-369-2600.

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