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HomeGoods Project Proponents Applaud Judge’s Ruling

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Proponents of a proposed $160 million distribution center are eagerly awaiting word regarding how TJX Companies Inc. plans to proceed, following Friday’s ruling by Trumbull Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos that upheld zone changes related to the project.

Kontos issued his judgment entry late Friday morning that denied the request for permanent injunctive relief and declaratory judgment sought by opponents of the rezoning of seven parcels where TJX wants to build a regional distribution center to serve its HomeGoods chain.

On Aug. 22, the day after Lordstown voters upheld the rezoning, the Committee of Lordstown Concerned Residents and its treasurer, Brett Dickson, filed a complaint in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court challenging the constitutionality of two sections of House Bill 292 that permitted the special election to take place.

In the judgment entry, Kontos said the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate by “clear and convincing evidence” that H/B. 292 was unconstitutional under either the single-subject rule or nonconformity clauses of the Ohio Constitution. The judge declared their claims moot and there was no “justiciable controversy requiring a declaratory judgment” as the challenged sections of the law are no longer in effect.

Proponents of the project welcomed the ruling, which followed a three-hour hearing Tuesday. An exuberant Mayor Arno Hill was among them.

“I am never better. Never better,” he remarked.

TJX, though HomeGoods spokeswoman Erika Tower, issued a statement supporting the ruling. “We respect the court’s decision, and remain excited about our plans to develop a distribution center in Lordstown,” the company said.

“We are extremely pleased with the results,” said Molly Johnson, an attorney representing landowner Harvey Lutz. TJX has an option on 121 acres of land Lutz owns.

“Despite the fact that we were not part of the suit directly, we watched with interest,” Johnson continued. “We are looking forward to the next steps in this project.”

Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, applauded the judge’s ruling in favor of the rezoning. She worked for the past two years with TJX on the project as head of the chamber’s economic development division and spoke with company officials Friday.

“We obviously believe that this is the correct ruling and we look forward to the company taking the appropriate next steps to get the ball rolling,” Boyarko said. “We look forward to having additional conversations next week on the next steps and how the chamber will support those next steps.”

In addition to the the prospect of 1,000 new jobs, TJX has pledged $500,000 for local schools, a 100-acre land donation to the village and career opportunities for college students. The distribution center is expected to be up and running by 2020.

Next steps include TJX going before the Trumbull County Planning Commission should it move forward with seeking a 75% property tax abatement and submitting a site plan for review by the Lordstown Planning Commission, Hill said.

Whether opponents of the rezoning would appeal Kontos’ ruling is unknown as of this postig. Dickson and attorneys representing the group did not respond to requests for comment.

Hill said he hoped that people realize that, based on the vote in favor of the rezoning, that the community supports the project.

“Hopefully, the litigation is over,” the mayor said.

RELATED:
Judge Denies Injunction; Paves Way for TJX Project

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.