By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
TJX Election Results
Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill comments on the TJX election results.
The atmosphere at Ross’ Eatery and Pub Tuesday night was jubilant as community members celebrated the results of a special election that decided the future of a TJX project in the village.
Drinks flowed, smiles came easily to many in the bar, and the signature neon T-shirts worn by project supporters over the last several months brightened the gathering.
The pro-TJX faction of the community won handily, with about 77 percent of votes in favor of keeping zone changes for the project in place. Voters cast ballots on seven referendums on village council’s rezoning of seven parcels totaling 290 acres on Hallock Young and Ellsworth Bailey roads from residential to industrial.
TJX plans to build a 1.2 million-square-foot, $170 million distribution center on the land, a project TJX has said will create about 1,000 jobs. The company plans to donate 100 acres for a buffer zone between the facility and nearby residences.
About 1,000 voters supported the zone changes; about 300 opposed them. The 1,331 ballots cast in the special election represented nearly 53 percent of registered voters in the village.
Opponents of the zone changes have said they support the project, but not at the site TJX has selected.
“I’m so happy,” said Richard Kilbert, sitting on a bar stool at Ross’s, of the election results.
Kilbert, who has lived in Lordstown since 1957, said he hears the traffic from the General Motors Lordstown plant from his Hallock Young Road home every day. The noise from the plant has never bothered him.
“Every car that went by was somebody supporting their family,” he said.
That’s why he supports the TJX project – he sees it as a sign of progress.
Other project supporters also expressed happiness with the outcome.
“I’m very happy the way the vote went,” said Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill.
“This is a huge victory for Lordstown, our community, and our economy. Lordstown residents have spoken, and they want TJX in the Mahoning Valley,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th. “Countless hours were spent courting this phenomenal project, and I want to thank the local economic development staff and elected officials for their herculean efforts. Despite the minor setbacks, I remained focused on doing what was necessary to ensure that this facility, with its thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in payroll and revenue, comes to our region.”
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of today’s vote by the residents of Lordstown,” said Sarah Boyarko, senior vice president of economic development at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. “TJX/HomeGoods has proposed a well-thought-out and responsible development. Based on the election results, the residents want this investment in their community. The voters obviously saw the big picture, not only with this investment, but also the jobs related to the construction of this facility, new business for future service providers and the need to send a positive message to others considering investing, that Lordstown is open for business.”
As for TJX, a representative said the company will have a comment when the election results are official.
Stephanie Penrose, director of the Trumbull County Board of Elections, said she was pleased with the voting turnout and process.
“The turnout was really, really good,” she said. “It was only three precincts, so everything went really smoothly. I’m very happy with how everything went at the polls.”
Now, TJX must work with local entities on its construction plans and on securing incentives, officials said. Boyarko said the chamber will remain involved in those steps, and Hill noted TJX must get village approval for its site plan and a 10-year, 75 percent tax abatement the company wants.
He said company representatives will be in town this week and will continue working with residents to address concerns about the project.
Now, Hill said, he hopes the community can begin to heal after what he described as a “brutal” period leading up to the election.
“I really want the community to come back together,” he said.
Kilbert said the community divisions about the issue were unlike anything he’s seen in his 60-plus years here. Still, he’s optimistic that time will help.
“I do think the wounds will heal,” he said.