Homeowners Closest to Site ‘All for’ TJX Project

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Fred Price and Marilyn Whipkey own the first house and property on Hallock Young Road that abuts the site where TJX Companies still could build its $160 million HomeGoods distribution center. And they are the only homeowners on this stretch of the road, which would be rerouted to make way for the project, that have posted “Welcome TJX. Right Project. Right Property” yard signs.

Hundreds of “Welcome TJX” signs, passed out at the rally Sunday to many of the more than 600 people who attended, are now visible elsewhere in this small village.

“I’m all for them,” Price says. “From what we went through, I really believe they pleased almost everybody and they pleased us. And like they told me, I’m going to lose the most of anybody.”

Still, it took the intervention of top TJX executives to satisfy the couple.

“We were left in the lurch with a lot of confusion with the company realtor. We were getting mixed messages, whether the company was going to buy our property or not,” Whipkey says.

“When we saw the sketch [of the project], the road was going to be relocated right in front of our home, the utilities were going to be relocated right in front of our home, the retention pond was very close to our property line,” she continues.

TJX project site planOriginal site plan presented by HomeGoods.

The private meeting March 20 with the company and homeowners on Hallock Young that was arranged by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber turned the situation around.

“We had a chance to express our concerns and immediately after the meeting we were approached by Joseph Dubord, VP of distribution, and Mark Walker, VP of real estate. They asked us what we needed, we came to agreement and a contract was make,” Whipkey says.

“We felt it was a very positive experience.”

Their neighbors apparently do not share that feeling. A councilwoman who lives two doors away is against TJX rezoning the 290-acre site it has optioned from residential/agriculture to industrial. “It’s changed the atmosphere,” Price says.

“A lot of this may be that we got an offer,” he says. “and maybe some of them want an offer. The only people who stopped here were on the committee [opposing the project at the site] and both times it was, “We wondered if you had an offer.”

hallock young road, lordstown, ohioRendering that shows site buffer when Hallock Young Road is relocated.

Now, not knowing if TJX will persevere with the project site despite opponents’ threats of litigation and a referendum, the couple is in a holding pattern. They attended the rally Sunday and came away “pleased with the amount of people who came out,” Whipkey says.

“It was a cool day with a lot of wind,” she notes. “A lot of people there had maneuvering issues – they carried canes yet they still came out. That was very encouraging.”

Conventional wisdom suggests TJX is closely monitoring public opinion and the final word on what it will do should be known this week.

“Their rezoning request is still on the table. Until they say they’re going somewhere else, we’re going to keep pushing on,” says James Dignan, CEO of the Regional Chamber.

Dignan, present at the rally, says he notified the president of the TJX HomeGoods division, John Ricciuti, about the rally and assured him, “The small vocal minority does not represent the entire community.”Drone photo courtesy of Bob Jadloski, Aerial Solutions.

Karen Dickson, spokeswoman for the opposition group “The Right Project on the Right Property,” says, “It’s not clear whose decision it was to put the [rezoning] petition on hold,” which she called a “bait and switch [that] is far from ethical.

Dickson made her remarks in an email she sent Saturday to village leaders, the chamber and TJX, and forwarded them to The Business Journal. The email contained the text of the “opening statement” at the group’s private meeting April 18 with village Mayor Arno Hill and TJX representatives.

“The concerned citizens of Lordstown support the TJX project. However, we believe the rezoning of residential property is not necessary,” Dickson said. “There are viable alternative industrial sites available in the village.”

Attached to the email was a PDF that listed four properties that opponents claim would meet the site requirements of TJX: “Norfolk Southern, GM Auxiliary/North Point, Ohio Commerce Center and Lordstown Commerce Park West (North Point).”

Dan Crouse, a real estate agent with Routh Hurlbert, the Warren agency that represents Ohio Commerce Park, attended that meeting and told the opposition group that Ohio Commerce Center “absolutely” would not work for TJX, nor does he think the North Point site would.

“We would not entertain any company that didn’t use rail, which TJX does not, at Commerce Park. For their site plan to work, we would have to tear up 12 miles of track, and at $1 million per mile, we’re not tearing up track,” he says.

Proponents were told the North Point site also would not work for TJX, he adds, because it’s “too far from the highway for the double trailers TJX uses.”

Crouse says Brett Dickson, who introduced his wife to those assembled at the meeting, invited him to the April 18 meeting. Dickson is the associate vice president of distribution and fulfillment at Things Remembered, 500 S. Bailey Road in North Jackson. The couple moved to Lordstown about two years ago and live on Pleasant Valley Road at the far end of the project. Behind their home are acres of woodlands, which TJX has said it would amplify greatly — providing a total buffer of at least a quarter mile.

“This community has been torn apart at the seams due to the mishandling of this project,” Kathy Dickson states in her email copied to The Business Journal. “Neighbor fighting neighbor, social media bullying, verbal abuse, neighbors threatening retribution, etc.,” she writes.

Questions subsequently posed to Dickson by The Business Journal have not been answered as of this posting.

“Some of the TJX supporters argue that your leadership and [your husband’s] involvement with the citizens group has as much to do with his position and fear of even more severe workforce shortages in this region than it does the proximity of your residence to the project,” our email stated in seeking a response.

“That’s something I think the citizens of Lordstown need to ask,” the chamber’s CEO, Dignan, told The Business Journal when asked about the potential competition for workers that 1,000 new jobs would bring to distribution centers in the region such as the one Things Remembered operates next door to Lordstown.

“This project is the right thing, the right project in the right location,” Dignan says. “This is where it needs to go, and if there are others who have other agendas, I can’t speak for them. But it doesn’t sound like it’s for the best interests of the community as a whole.”

Pictured at top: Marilyn Whipkey and Fred Price own the home that directly abuts TJX’s preferred site for its distribution center.

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to clarify that Fred Price and Marilyn Whipkey own the first house on Hallock Young Road that directly abuts the proposed site.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.