By Kalea Hall
If the village OKs zoning changes for a HomeGoods distribution center, a group of Lordstown residents plans a referendum to force those changes to a vote.
Village residents Phil Eubank, Kathy Dickson and several others are concerned about changing zoning from residential land to industrial property for the project.
“There’s a lot of residents who have lived there a long time, and they have paid taxes and they have put their largest investment, as in their home, into this village. And [local government officials] have put this company before the residents,” Eubank said.
If the zoning changes are approved, a referendum would get going, citizens say – stressing that while they agree with the project’s economic potential, they don’t agree with its proposed location.
HomeGoods, a division of The TJX Companies Inc., which owns TJ Maxx and Marshalls department stores, plans to build a 1.2 million-square-foot center on 290 acres along Ellsworth Bailey Road. To do so, two parcels – 174 acres – must be rezoned from residential to industrial.
HomeGoods spokeswoman Erika Tower said the company is continuing “to consider feedback and work through our plans for the potential purchase of this site,” and the company does not have any further specifics about the plan to provide now.
A village planning commission meeting was planned for Monday, but Friday the company canceled the meeting, and another session hasn’t been scheduled. HomeGoods did not provide further comment on the cancellation.
The planning commission has to OK the zoning changes, and then it goes to village council, where five votes are needed to overturn the commission’s decision. Lordstown has a six-member council, but one member, Ronald Radtka, will abstain from voting because his family owns 52 acres of the land that could be rezoned.
State ethics laws prohibit “an official from taking any formal or informal action on any matter that would provide a definite, pecuniary benefit or detriment to property he owns.”
But the law also says an official is not prohibited “from participating or voting on general legislation [such as the adoption of a new zoning code] that provides a uniform benefit to all or most property within the community, including his property.”
Radtka could not be reached for comment.
The site plan calls for realignment of Hallock Young Road and installation of traffic lights on Ellsworth Bailey.
Some residents along Silver Fox Drive, where Eubank lives, Pleasant Valley Drive and Hallock Young and inside the Imperial modular home community oppose the project, but others support it mainly for the 1,000 jobs it will bring to the Mahoning Valley and the revenue that comes with those jobs – $27 million annually.
This week, HomeGoods and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber had two private meetings with residents, where residents voiced their concerns about the project.
Eubank said the company talked about keeping the buffer areas around the development as residential property.
“They can say what they want, but there’s been no concessions made,” Eubank said.
Eubank wants to see that buffer area, which is near where he lives, given to the Environmental Protection Agency so it will not be developed.
“My position is if it’s not what we asked for, we don’t want it,” Eubank said. He stressed he’s for the project, but not for where it’s placed.
“I haven’t been optimistic from the first minute because they have developed a site plan for reason,” Eubank said. “They have explored all the avenues, and this is the avenue they want.”
Kathy Dickson, a resident of Pleasant Valley Drive, got the impression from the meeting that HomeGoods would go back and look at industrial properties in the village.
Dickson brought research to the meeting on available industrial properties in the village that could be considered for the project. She specifically suggested the Norfolk Southern property on the other side of the turnpike on Ellsworth Bailey Road where there are 161 acres, according to property listings available on the chamber’s website.
“I think they were steered to that [residential] property,” Dickson said. “And they didn’t do their due diligence on the other options.”
Dickson said she was assured the company would look at other properties.
“I really think they are serious about going out and finding something that will suit them [within Lordstown] without the controversy,” she said. “I got the impression from them that they really, really want Lordstown.”
Dickson’s concern about the zone change is the loss of residential property to industry, property values declining and flooding that could be caused by the development.
“There’s a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t do this,” Dickson said. “There will likely be a referendum.”