Milton’s paradise helps remove rust stains from Valley

Four hundred years ago, epic English poet John Milton lamented the downfall of civilization as he knew it in his masterpiece work titled “Paradise Lost.”

Don’t look now, but we may have just spotted that lost paradise smack dab in the heart of the Mahoning Valley. Indeed throngs of people are flocking to Milton’s namesake community on the banks of his namesake lake.

Indeed the many amenities of Lake Milton in western Mahoning County are attracting swarms of new residents building lavish so-called McMansion homes at a pace that the zoning inspector for Milton Township calls “amazing.”

As Vindicator staff writer Ed Runyan reported in a recent front page enterprise story, the housing boom in the Milton and Craig Beach communities is nothing short of phenomenal. Michael Kurilla Jr., who has served as zoning inspector in Milton and other local communities for 35 years, said he’s never seen anything like this growth spurt.

“We shake our head. It’s just amazing. You can’t keep up. I would say this year is going to be the peak of this residential housing boom we are seeing,” Kurilla said.

The inspector is not mincing words.

During the first 4 1/2 months of this year, more housing permits were issued for Milton Township than in all of 2020, and the average value of those 15 new homes is logged at a whopping $364,179, according to records from the township zoning office and the Mahoning County Building Department.

Several factors likely have fueled this meteoric growth, not the least of which have been historically low interest rates for home buyers. Those rates also have been responsible for the scorching-hot housing market playing out in our state, our region and our nation.

In addition, completion of a $20 million water and sewer improvement project around Lake Milton facilitated the construction of lavish homes with state-of-the-art water and sanitation services.

And the state’s takeover from the city of Youngstown of the lake and park around it has produced over the years a cleaner lake, more inviting beaches along Milton’s 23-mile shoreline, more public park attractions and some heightened commercial activity.

Collectively, the growth at Milton serves as a microcosm of our region’s success at shedding its ignominious image as the heart of the dying post-industrial Rust Belt. That’s a stain we most assuredly benefit from losing.

But the success story at Milton is not solely responsible for the rebranding of our region as a much more inviting place to live and work to the nation and world.

Other communities, too, show increasing signs of renewed vigor and vitality.

Take Canfield Township, for example. More than 150 new upscale homes have been built in the upper middle-class community over the past five years, according to local zoning and building records. The average pricetag for these new abodes stands at about one quarter of a million dollars. Rusted-out poverty, clearly that is not.

Or even consider the largest city of the Mahoning Valley where depictions of dirt, dinginess and depression have been most pronounced in recent decades.

Yes, years of encrusted rust is wearing away — even in Youngstown. For one, the city’s mammoth rate of population drain has slowed dramatically in recent years.

Thanks to efforts to raze demolished housing, to clear blighted properties and to stimulate urban investment by city leaders and groups such as the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., the largest city in the Valley is rebounding.

After suffering population losses in the tens of thousands every decade since the 1960s, the city now is poised to make its best showing in the upcoming Census in half a century. Population estimates for 2017 through 2020 actually show a slow rate of growth in the number of people calling Youngstown home.

Those and other positive demographic trends in the Valley should challenge our many economic development and community groups to redouble their efforts to enhance the quality of life, to pursue diverse business growth and to banish any and all remnants of a troubled past in Youngstown and its environs. That cleaner slate should then enable some of the newfound paradise in Lake Milton to flow more freely and fully throughout the Valley.



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