Economic Development

Referendum Approaches for TJX Land in Lordstown

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – With election day just over a week away, nearly 180 Lordstown residents have requested absentee ballots or voted in person at the Trumbull County Board of Elections on the referendum on the rezoning of seven parcels.

So far, 129 voters requested ballots in person at the board’s offices as of close of business Friday, Stephanie Penrose, county elections director, reported. An additional 51 ballots have been mailed, 30 of which have already been returned ahead of the Aug. 21 election date for the referendum to determine if land in the village will be rezoned for use as a distribution center for TJX Companies Inc.

“The turnout is slightly lower than I expected,” Penrose said Friday afternoon.

“Everything is going in the right direction,” said Sarah Boyarko, vice president for economic development for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. “We’ll have to see what it all means in the next few days.”

Boyarko, who has been working with TJX/HomeGoods officials on the project, said she talks with company representatives every few days. “They as well as us are looking forward to Aug. 21 and seeing what the outcome of that vote will be,” she said.

Village voters are considering whether to uphold or reject the village planning commissions’ decision May 8 to rezone land were TJX wants to build a $150 million regional distribution center to service its HomeGoods brand. Village Council, in a series of 3-2 votes, approved accepting the commission’s recommendations to rezone the seven properties for industrial use in June.

Last month, opponents solicited enough signatures for a referendum on the rezoning of each of the seven properties.

Last week, village residents received a letter – from a group identifying itself as Concerned Residents of the Village of Lordstown – calling on residents to vote in favor of the zone change. 30 people signed the letter, which outlines various reasons they should back the rezoning.

The TJX project would bring “much-needed jobs to our area, increase our property values, contribute needed taxes to operate our community and school and help all our property owners keep our low property taxes,” according to the letter.

The letter points out that the area has lost more than 30,000 jobs since the 1980s just from reductions by General Motors, Packard Electric and the steel industry. This summer, GM’s Lordstown Complex went down to a single shift, shedding 1,500 positions at the plant.

In addition, it rejects arguments made by opponents that the zone change represents “spot zoning,” that another location in the village would be suitable or that anyone is being bullied into accepting the rezoning.

Mayor Arno Hill, who supports the project, accused opponents of the rezoning of engaging in “fear tactics,” but said they were in the minority in the village.

“I’ll be glad when it’s over with,” he said. “Two of them who are against it want to run for mayor and one of them against it wants to sit on Council.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.