Lordstown residents will comment on TJX zone changes at public hearing this week
By Jordyn Grzelewski
This week, members of the public will have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed zone change that has drawn both outspoken critics and supporters.
As required by law, village council will host a public hearing on TJX Companies Inc.’s request to rezone 290 acres from residential to industrial to build a 1.2 million-square-foot HomeGoods distribution center.
The hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday and will be followed by three readings, then a vote by council.
“I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people who are going to come and express their views, as they have before,” said Mayor Arno Hill, who supports TJX’s proposal to build on a site off Ellsworth-Bailey Road, south of the turnpike.
The company has said the distribution center could employ more than 1,000 people within five years of opening.
Plans for the $160 million project first became public in March and quickly drew outcry from some village residents who are opposed to the use of residential land and concerned about the facility’s impact on nearby residences.
Among the opponents of the proposal are two village council members who say they plan to vote against the requested zone changes. Robert Bond and Karen Jones said they support the distribution center locating in the village, but not at the proposed site. Attempts to reach other council members for comment were not successful.
“It’s a zoning issue,” said Bond. “I think everybody wants to see TJX come to Lordstown. We do have large tracts of already-zoned industrial property that could be made to work.”
Opponents of the plan have noted at least three other industrial sites they believe would work, but TJX has said other sites don’t meet the project specifications.
“My opposition is to changing zoning for one company, and changing state law on a temporary basis for one company,” said Jones. “I think we’re setting a very dangerous precedent about doing this kind of thing. ... To me, this smacks of spot zoning.”
The state Legislature this week passed a bill with an amendment that would expedite a referendum that some residents have said they plan to seek if council OKs the zone changes.
A referendum on council’s decision would require petition signatures from 10 percent of village residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election, putting the needed number of signatures at 124, according to the Trumbull County Board of Elections. The legislative amendment, if signed into law, would push up a referendum from November to as early as August.
The amendment drew the support of numerous area elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th.
“I’m glad to see that our local legislators stepped up to the plate,” Hill said. “The legislators realized how important this is to the Mahoning Valley and that’s why they did this. I commend them for it.”
Council’s vote on the zone change will include five out of six council members, as council member Ronald Radtka must recuse himself from discussions and decision-making due to a conflict of interest. Radtka’s family owns some of the land in the proposed site.
Hill said he expects council to have a final reading and vote June 21 after having first and second readings at Saturday’s special meeting and a regular council meeting June 18.
If council approves the zone changes, there would be a 30-day window before council’s ruling goes into effect, village Solicitor Paul Dutton explained.
During that window, residents could collect signatures for a petition, which must come from residents who are registered to vote.