Bill with TJX Amendment Clears State Assembly
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The state legislature Thursday approved a bill that would expedite any referendum on rezoning and in Lordstown where TJX Companies Inc. wants to develop a distribution center.
The bill awaits the signature of Gov. John Kasich.
Included in House Bill 292 is language that allows for opponents of the rezoning of seven parcels in Lordstown to bring the issue up for a referendum vote in August.
“I’m very happy. It’s going to keep things timely here in Lordstown,” said village Mayor Arno Hill. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the state representatives who have been working very diligently to get this done.”
State Sen. Sean O’Brien attached the amendment when the Ohio Senate considered the legislation, which previously had been approved in the state House of Representatives, requiring a concurrence vote in the House.
The concurrence vote in the house was delayed as majority Republicans in the chamber struggled in recent weeks to elect a speaker to replace Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned after it was announced he was being investigated by the FBI. Ryan Smith, R-93 Bidell, was elected speaker Wednesday.
In May, the Lordstown Planning Commission voted to recommend changing the zoning of 292 acres where TJX intends to build a regional distribution center for its HomeGoods chain. The 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse would cost in excess of $160 million and is expected to create 1,000 jobs.
“We are now another step closer to securing an expected 1,000 new jobs in the village of Lordstown,” said O’Brien, D-32 Bazetta, in a statement. “I truly believe that this TJX HomeGoods site will help strengthen our local economy, and I am happy to continue doing whatever I can to ensure this project happens.”
If Village Council adopts the planning commission’s recommendation, opponents of the zoning change will have the opportunity to place it on the ballot for a referendum. The legislation passed by the Ohio General Assembly allows the Trumbull County Board of Elections to schedule a special election for the referendum 60 days after a Village Council vote accepting the rezoning.
Without the legislation, a referendum would not take place until the general election in November. Project supporters feared the delay would cause TJX to abandon the project. If opponents gather enough signatures, the special election likely would take place Aug. 21.
“This gives citizens the right to petition their government but also allows the company to know sooner rather than later,” said state Rep. Glenn Holmes, D-63 McDonald.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, hailed O’Brien and Holmes for their efforts in their respective chambers. “They are both exemplary leaders and got the job done during a tumultuous time. Their constituents will be better off because of this achievement,” he said in a statement. Ryan also praised Hill, James Dignan, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, and the team at JobsOhio.
Ryan has been actively involved in efforts to secure the project for Lordstown, an effort that stepped up after TJX indicated it might abandon the Lordstown site in the face of community opposition. He said he was encouraged by the “resilience and support” of the Lordstown community and elected leaders.
“We must 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,” he said.
Village Council has scheduled a public hearing June 16 on the planning commission’s recommendation, which is expected to go to a first reading. Meetings for the recommendation’s second and third readings are set for June 18 and 21. Five members of the six-member village council would be required to turn down the planning commission’s recommendation, Hill said.
Opponents will have 30 days after council’s vote to gather enough signatures to place the decision up for referendum. The mayor said he has heard from at least 15 people who said they signed an earlier petition opposing the rezoning that they likely would not sign it again.
“We’ll know by the 21st of July,” he said.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.