By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
TJX cleared another hurdle for its bid to build a HomeGoods distribution center in the village Thursday, as council approved the zone changes requested so the company can build on 290 acres of residential land.
Council voted 3-2 in favor of rezoning seven parcels located on Ellsworth Bailey and Hallock Young roads to industrial. Council members Robert Bond and Karen Jones voted “no,” Ronald Radtka abstained due to a conflict of interest, and Lamar Liming, Howard Sheely III and Don Reider voted “yes.”
Supporters of the project applauded the outcome of Thursday’s special meeting.
“We are pleased with the results of [Thursday’s] Lordstown Village Council vote and are grateful to the council for its support of our proposed distribution center,” HomeGoods spokeswoman Doreen Thompson said in a statement. “We wish to reiterate our deep commitment to being a good neighbor in Lordstown and having a positive impact on the community, and look forward to continuing through the process to make this project a reality.”
This step forward in the project, which TJX has said could create 1,000 jobs, came on the eve of approximately 1,200 layoffs at the General Motors Lordstown plant.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, also weighed in, calling the vote a “major milestone in what has been a long and arduous journey to bring TJX HomeGoods to the Mahoning Valley.”
“We have all worked long and hard to make this project a reality,” he said, commending village Mayor Arno Hill and other village officials. “Workers in our area will be better off because of this achievement. I continue to be encouraged by the resilience and support of the Lordstown community and its elected leadership. I will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure that this facility, with its thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in payroll and revenue, comes to our region.”
Sarah Boyarko, senior vice president of economic development for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said the chamber team is “ecstatic” about council’s approval of the zone changes.
“We’re ecstatic with tonight’s outcome, and the fact that village council realizes the importance of this investment not only for their community but also the entire Mahoning Valley,” she said.
Council’s approval of the zone changes came about three months after the project was made public. The plans immediately drew opposition from village residents who are opposed to the use of residential land and who are concerned about the potential effects on nearby neighborhoods.
Other community members organized in favor of the project, citing the jobs and other economic benefits, such as tax revenue generated by the facility and $500,000 the company has promised to donate to the school district.
As at past meetings on the topic, Thursday’s meeting drew a sizable crowd. More than 75 people turned out for the meeting, and 18 people spoke about the project. Brett Dickson spoke about his concerns about stormwater runoff from the site and how it will affect his home and others that are downhill from there.
“When the heavens open up and a Northeast Ohio gully washer comes down that hill, you better have your personal checkbook ready,” he told council members.
Village Solicitor Paul Dutton pushed back on assertions that council members could be personally liable for such damage, assuring them they have immunity in such cases.
Dickson also vowed to petition for a referendum if council approved the ordinances. Residents will have 30 days from today to file a petition. They need 124 valid signatures to make it onto the ballot for a special election that would take place 60 days from now.
Also speaking out against the zone changes was Gary Kohut, who said building an industrial facility near residences will scare people away from moving to the village.
“You search your soul deep,” he said. “You’ve got $250,000. You’re going to buy your dream home. You’re telling me you’re going to build it with a factory in your backyard?”
John Saxon said he grew up next to a steel mill and worked hard in the steel industry to be able to afford his home in the village.
“If you people feel good about taking that away from me, God bless you. I hope you enjoy your money,” he said.
Among residents who were happy about the decision was Harvey Lutz, who owns 121 acres of the property in question – and threatened to cover it with chicken manure if the changes weren’t approved.
“I think it’s a good community fit,” he said. “Any jobs in this area is good, not just for Lordstown but for surrounding areas.”