By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
TJX LORDSTOWN ZONING MEETING
A large crowd was on hand for a Lordstown Zoning meeting concerning the TJX project.
After more than a month of uncertainty about the development of a HomeGoods warehouse in the village, the planning commission on Tuesday voted 4-0 in favor of granting the zone changes TJX Companies Inc. needed to move forward with its plans.
The vote came at the end of a nearly three-hour meeting that was so well-attended the fire department had to turn people away because the room in the administration center was at capacity. On one side of the room sat dozens of people wearing neon yellow T-shirts with the slogan “right property, right project,” to show their support for the proposed 1.2 million square foot distribution center.
About two dozen community members spoke up about the project, some in favor, and some opposed.
Many who spoke in favor emphasized the impact of an estimated 1,000 jobs the project will bring, especially as uncertainty over the General Motors plant looms. Those against the zone changes said they were not opposed to the project, but to its location on residential land.
Village resident Robert Dellick said he was disappointed in those who support the project.
“I think they’ve just thrown 91 households in that area under the bus,” he said.
Keith Westenfelder, who said his property abuts the project site, spoke passionately in favor of it.
“It is time for change, not only in this village but the entire Trumbull and Mahoning counties. We have lost 2,700 jobs in Lordstown in the last year and a half. We can’t afford to lose any more jobs,” he said. “People: it’s time. ... If you let this go, this place is going to be a ghost town.”
Resident Kathy Dickson said those who are against the proposal want HomeGoods in the village, but not on residential property. She noted numerous other sites in the village some believe could be used for the project.
HomeGoods officials and others involved in the project gave a presentation in which they addressed concerns about noise, traffic, drainage and other issues.
As opposed to the original plan presented in March, the plan presented Tuesday included a buffer zone of more than 1,500 feet on the western property line, berm and swale construction, and a guarantee the site’s only access points will be on Ellsworth-Bailey Road, not on Hallock Young.
“We are very pleased with the results of [Tuesday’s] Lordstown planning board vote and want to thank the board members for their support,” HomeGoods spokesman Andrew Mastrangelo said.
“We want to reiterate, especially to those who reside alongside the property, that we are committed to being a good neighbor to the Lordstown community. We are confident that the enhancements we have made to our plan, which include substantial green space and forested area, berm and swale construction for water management, and road infrastructure to mitigate traffic, will minimize impact to them.”
Company representatives also noted the benefits the distribution center will bring to the area, including an estimated 1,000 jobs within five years and accompanying tax revenue.
They said the area’s workforce potential is one of the primary reasons the company selected Lordstown. Another reason is Lordstown’s location, which the company said will allow the warehouse, with easy turnpike access, to supply 300 stores in the region.
They also answered a question that many in the community have asked: Why not build on a village site that already is zoned industrial? Mark Walker, HomeGoods vice president of real estate, said it came down to the size of the planned facility.
“I wish [other sites] could work for us,” he said. “They don’t. And therefore this is the only viable site for us to build on in Lordstown.”
Village Mayor Arno Hill, who is a voting commission member, said he was happy with the outcome. The proposal is not a done deal, as it still must go before village council, which Hill said will have a public hearing in the near future.
“I believe it’s good for the village. I do hope they can appease some of the neighbors who still are against this,” Hill said.