Our Towns

Boardman Residents Consider Township’s Future

BOARDMAN, Ohio – As they entered last night’s public input meeting, Boardman Township residents were asked to identify their favorite and least favorite part of Boardman by placing green (for good) and red (for bad) dots on a map. By meeting’s end, red dots could be found concentrated along most of U.S. Route 224 and  Market Street on the township’s north end.

The largest number of green dots were placed over the area east of Southern Boulevard south of 224.

About 60 residents attended the meeting at Good Hope Lutheran Church, where they were invited by township officials to give feedback on priorities, assets, and goals.

“What’s our vision for the future? What can Boardman be moving forward?” township trustee Larry Moliterno asked the crowd before turning the proceedings over to the township’s director of zoning and development, Krista Beniston.

In many ways, Beniston said, Boardman is a community built for the late 20th century. Three quarters of the township was built before 1979, she noted. “A lot of our growth in development was in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s,” and was built around the country’s enthusiasm for driving automobiles.

As a result, Boardman is home to many amenities that can only be accessed with a car. She noted that only 25% of the townships roads have sidewalks, and many of these aren’t connected to one another.

“Market Street and 224 for example, we have these massive corridors that people can’t cross,” said Beniston. “If you live directly across the street from Handel’s, you’re not going to take your three-year-old across the street to get ice cream.”

Addressing those concerns could help Boardman — the area’s largest retail corridor — keep in step with the rapid changes occurring in the industry.

“We think that people having access to recreation without having to get in their car and drive is really valuable,” said assistant director of zoning and development Tricia D’Avignon.

One of the amenities she’d like to improve access to is Mill Creek Park. She said the township is in discussions with the park about adding access points from some of the bordering neighborhoods.

“People who live there could just walk right down the street and walk right in.”

After Beniston’s presentation, residents were asked to visit 10 stations and leave feedback by placing stickers on their priorities. At the station titled ‘A Healthy Community’, 31 stickers were placed in the box that read, “Ensure all residents access to a variety of parks, recreation facilities, open spaces, and programs for active and passive recreation.”

About the same amount of stickers could be found in the box that read, “Promote active transportation as a more sustainable way to get around.”

As for retail, an overwhelming number of residents said they would prefer walkable retail, as opposed to strip plaza’s or big-box type stores such as Walmart.

“I would like [Boardman] to be more walkable,” said Marissa Wilkinson as she walked from station to station.

“We need more young people to attend these meetings and help us elders out,” said Jacky Thompson while placing her stickers at the sustainability station.

At the table dedicated to transportation, two people thought having an automobile oriented transportation network was a priority, while 31 people said they would prefer a transportation network that catered to all uses.

One of the area’s the township is looking to try such a concept is along Market Street between Midlothian and Shields Road.

“We’ve been talking about doing what’s called a ‘traffic diet’,” said township trustee Tom Costello.

“Does it need to be four lanes right there?”

Costello said bringing the road down to three lanes would allow them to add curb parking, making the stores easier to access.

He said the storefronts are a good fit for mixed-use space, with a storefront on the ground level and residential on top.

Right now, D’Avignon noted, “there’s not a single crosswalk or stop light between Midlothian and Shields. There’s nowhere for people to cross.”

“I think this should be done,” said John Klimko after hearing the idea from township trustee Brad Calhoun.

“There’s a lot of empty storefronts that aren’t being taken care of,” and this could be a way to make them more attractive, he agreed.

For such projects to take place, Boardman will first have to update it’s zoning code, a lengthy process that Beniston hopes to begin work on this spring.

“It’s about a year to a year-and-a-half process, and it’s the blueprint for how we can develop. But we don’t want to do that without having this type of feedback,” she said. “You want to have a community plan first so you can set those high-level priorities.”

A second input meeting will take place Feb. 5 at Boardman Park. Residents can also leave feedback by filling out the survey at the township’s website.

Beniston says the feedback will be used to produce a draft plan that will be presented to the public this fall.

Pictured: Krista Beniston gives a presentation to Boardman Township residents at Thursday night’s public meeting.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.