Trumbull County Board of Elections sets date for TJX referendum
By Jordyn Grzelewski
If a referendum on zone changes for a TJX project in Lordstown makes it onto the ballot, a special election will take place Aug. 21.
The Trumbull County Board of Elections voted Tuesday to set that date and to begin preparing for a special election that is widely expected to occur.
Lords-town Village Council last week approved rezoning 290 acres on Hallock Young and Ellsworth Bailey roads from residential to industrial. A group of village residents that opposes the zone changes has vowed to petition for a referendum.
The rezoning was done at the request of TJX Companies, which wants to build a $160-million, 1.2-million-square-foot HomeGoods distribution center on the site.
Those who are opposed to the rezoning have said the company should locate on a site that already was zoned industrial, and have raised concerns about the project’s impact on nearby residences.
Supporters of the zone changes have cited the economic benefits of the project, including the 1,000 jobs TJX said the facility could create within five years of opening.
State legislation tailored to the situation in Lordstown expedites a referendum, pushing it up from November to 60 days from council’s vote. It gives residents 30 days from council’s vote to file a petition.
Stephanie Penrose, county board of elections director, explained the referendum process.
First, she said, those seeking a referendum must contact legal counsel. Then they must collect 124 valid signatures.
That number represents 10 percent of village residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election.
A signature is valid if it is from a village resident who is registered to vote under the proper name and his or her current address and is signed with a pen, Penrose said.
The petition must be filed with the village by July 21. The village, then the board of elections, will then verify the signatures.
The board of elections is in the unusual position of having to start preparing for an election that may or may not happen.
Voting for military and overseas citizens via absentee ballot begins July 7, and those voters have 45 days to vote, Penrose said.
Some residents have expressed concerns about how the expedited referendum process would affect members of the military, but Penrose said they will have the opportunity to cast a ballot.
“They still get their 45 days like they’ve always gotten. It doesn’t affect them negatively at all,” she said.
She said Lordstown does not currently have any registered overseas voters.
Early voting would begin July 24, and the deadline to register would be July 23.
Penrose said the estimated cost of a special election is between $1,200 and $1,300 per precinct, and Lordstown has three precincts. The village will be responsible for covering the total cost.