Love’s Travel Stops Gets Go-Ahead from Beaver Township

NORTH LIMA, Ohio – A proposed multimillion-dollar travel plaza along the east side of state Route 7 was given the green light Thursday from members of the Beaver Township zoning board.

However, some issues remain before Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores could begin work on a 15-acre site at the Route 7 and Ohio Turnpike interchange, company representatives say.

“We still have some hurdles to go through,” Chad Bruner, real estate project manager for Love’s, told the board. The most important issue is obtaining approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over wetland mediation, he noted.

Once that matter is resolved, Bruner says work on the project could begin. “We’re working through that now,” he says. He anticipates the new travel stop could open sometime in 2023.

The typical investment for these projects is between $12 million and $15 million, Bruner says.  The Love’s development would include a Hardee’s restaurant and drive-thru, a dog park, a tire replacement and repair center and fueling operation.

All of the tire and light maintenance services are conducted in an enclosed area, so no materials would be visible outside.

The company requested a conditional use permit for the tire shop and drive-thru, some landscape variances, and variances related to fencing and signage.

Bruner said the project has also been subjected to a traffic study and its ingress and egress points have been approved by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Just one item – a proposal for a 104-foot high-rise sign that is visible from the turnpike — drew concerns from the board.

Board member David Dickey said that such signage could present an eyesore to new residential developments slated for nearby Sharrott Road.

“That’s a tough one,” he said.

“It just breaks our heart to see big poles again,” noted board member Robert Christian, after other high elevation poles had previously been removed.

Bruner said that a high-rise sign is vital to the development since there are no billboards or blue placards on the turnpike near the North Lima exit that would advertise Love’s.

“The only way you know we’re here is the high rise,” Bruner said. He says that the plazas experience on average a 25% decrease in diesel fuel sales when power is knocked out and the signs are unlit.  “It’s critical for us to have a high-rise sign.”

Initially, the development had proposed a 130-foot sign, but the Federal Aviation Administration limited the height to 104 feet, Bruner said. 

Chief zoning Inspector Rick Martin added that in 2020, Love’s hoisted a trial balloon at 150 feet to determine sign visibility.  After driving the Sharrott Road area and other roads, Martin said that he couldn’t see the balloon.

Moreover, the sign would be situated at a lower elevation than existing light poles at the interchange, Bruner said. 

Ultimately, the board was convinced that the Love’s project presented a unique situation, and did not set a precedent for similar structures in the future.

“I’m comfortable telling someone else at a future time that this was unique and its not going to happen again,” Christian said. “It’s a wonderful economic use of the property.”

Love’s, based in Oklahoma City, operates more than 560 locations across the country in 41 states and employs more than 33,000 people, according to the company’s website. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.