Hall China Exception Bid Fails after Tie Vote

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — A request for a special exception that would have allowed a scrap recycling operation to takeover the former Hall China Co. property was denied after a tied vote by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The 2-2 vote followed nearly an hour of commentary by primarily those opposed to the special exception requested by HLC Holdings to allow “junk storage and sales” at the property. HLC owns the Anna Street property that ceased operations as a pottery in March 2021. It has since been used for warehousing.

A special exception is necessary to accommodate plans by Six Recycling, Maple Avenue, to purchase the former pottery and relocate its scrap recycling business there. The property is currently zoned M-3, General Industrial, which does not include junk storage and sales in its allowable uses.

A public hearing on the matter was held Jan. 13, but the board tabled it to seek more information and then reconvened the meeting Thursday evening.

The vacant Hall China Co. property on Anna Street in East Liverpool.

Residents packed the council chambers for the vote. A notice was distributed advising attendees that the board was not required to allow public commentary, and outbursts, applause or uninvited comments would not be tolerated.

A uniformed police officer was on hand and a warning given that unruly people would be removed.

With board member Karl Fife absent, the other three members opted to delay making a decision until the arrival of Chairman Brian Vaughn who was en route from Cleveland.

Officiating in Vaughn’s absence, member Dan Painter suggested hearing comments from those present. Bill Cowan, who retired Feb. 1 as city planning director and was there only to take meeting minutes, advised that each person who spoke would have to be sworn in.

Questioned by this reporter why that was necessary since it had been noted the meeting was not a public hearing, Cowan conferred with the board after which public comment was allowed to commence, with each speaker given three minutes.

Most who addressed the board reiterated concerns made during the public hearing in January about the impact the recycling business would have on the neighborhood.

Stagecoach Road resident David Hager referred to a list of calls made to the current Six Recycling location by the city fire department dating from 2004, which included smoke complaints, vehicle fires, rubbish fires, dumpster fires and others. He pointed out there are homes within 100 feet of the property where the same operations would be taking place if the exception were granted.

“The quality of life for the people there will be terrible. Mr. Six won’t have to put up with it, because he doesn’t live in Ohio,” Hager said. “We don’t need it here. There are 13 recycling places within 20 miles of East Liverpool.”

Councilman Tom Beagle, who represents the 1st Ward in which the property is located, spoke on behalf of the special exception, saying, “East Liverpool was built on industry. The community was built on those industries.”

He offered some statistics regarding Six Recycling’s operation, saying the business pays out over a million dollars per year to scrappers which, in turn, goes into the economy.

“We’re talking about driving a tax-paying business out of here,” Beagle said. “They attract business because they get rid of metal and scrap a business can no longer use. They’ve been here 33 years and we’re going to push them away.”

He pondered how that speaks to businesses in other areas looking at East Liverpool. He said the plan is a “benefit to the neighborhood,” adding he ran his election campaign on trying to attract more business to the city.

Former city council member Linda Ziegler, Ohio Avenue, however, spoke against the plan, offering “a little history” about the Six Recycling company. While she was on council, Six Recycling was granted a zoning change to build a new office and do some beautification projects at its current location.

“You know what happened? No new office, no beautification,” Ziegler said, cautioning the board to “get it in writing” if it granted the exception.

“If it were good for the existing neighborhood, these people wouldn’t be here (at the meeting),” Ziegler said. “The city has been very friendly to FRX (the marijuana cultivation and processing business across the street), but they haven’t told the city one thing and done something else.”

Ruth Street resident Andrew English said Six Recycling cannot be compared to Hall China, saying he grew up near the pottery and it was clean, quiet and friendly, while “Six is just the opposite of that.” English said his father spent considerable money to improve his house on Harvey Avenue near the pottery.

“You’re going to put a junk yard in my father’s back yard,” English said. “I played there. I’d like my children to do the same. Six’s destroyed an entire neighborhood; it tore down 15 houses. Are they going to tear down all the houses (at the Hall China site)? It’s ridiculous.”

Lisa Webb, Globe Street, said she came to the meeting to find out why her neighbors were there. While she understands their concerns, she does not want the Hall China property to sit idle and empty and become dilapidated.

Webb said if Six keeps its promises, she is not opposed to it locating in the new spot, adding, however, that she lives about a half mile away, not as close as some of the others who spoke.

Representing Six Recycling was attorney Joe Ludovici, who emphasized the special zoning request was made by HLC Holdings, owner of Hall China Co., whereas the family-owned Six Recycling is willing to make a “substantial investment in East End that would floor some of you.”

He pointed out that those living in the area knew it was zoned industrial when they purchased their homes and said the company does not plan on operating at both sites but would clean up its current site on Maple upon moving to the pottery site.

Referring to the comment about Six purchasing houses near their existing site, Ludovici deemed some of those as dilapidated and drug houses. He also said that, while there might be 13 recycling facilities in the area, none bring in as much money to the city as his client.

Ludovici said much of the operation would be under roof and unseen by the public and scrap would be moved in and out quickly.

“The city should give them a chance to grow,” he urged.

Councilman Brian Kerr, who voiced his opposition to the plan at Monday’s council meeting, was in attendance but did not speak, as was council President John Torma, who also had spoken out Monday against the exception. He did not comment on the issue but did clarify that council is a legislative body and not responsible for enforcing the zoning regulations.

Board member Reece Kelly moved to approve the special exception with modifications previously recommended by Cowan pertaining to trees and earthen coverage. The motion was seconded by member Mario Hernandez, who added the condition that the site undergo an exterior inspection every three years.

Both Vaughn and Painter voted against the measure, resulting in the 2-2 tie, with Cowan declaring it a loss. He said after the meeting he had spoken to city Law Director Charles Payne about the possibility of a tie and was told that would result in failure of the measure.

Vaughn said after the meeting he voted against the exception because, although he does not believe Six Recycling does bad business, he cannot see that type of business trading one area of land for another and trying to clean up the first site. He hopes that the location of FarmaceuticalRX right across the street from the Hall China property may signal the beginning of a renaissance for the East End and possibly other uses for the former pottery, he said.

In voting no, Painter said he did not believe the plans fit the stipulations spelled out for special exceptions outlined in the zoning regulations.

Cowan said after the meeting that HLC Holdings has the option of filing an appeal of the decision in the Court of Common Pleas. Liz McIlvain of HLC Holdings declined comment when approached after the meeting.

Pictured at top: With a large crowd in attendance, the East Liverpool Board of Zoning Appeals denied a special exception for the former Hall China Co. property with a 2-2 vote Thursday.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.