Economic Development

Correction: Sierra Club Files Comments, Not Objection, to Cafaro Project

Editor’s Note: The headline on this article has been corrected for accuracy. The Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club filed comments to the OEPA regarding the project, not a formal objection. This mistake was brought to our attention by interested citizens who emphasize that any opposition to the project is based on its location in a wetlands area.

HOWLAND, Ohio — The Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club has filed a three-page written comment with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that outlines its concerns about the agency granting a surface water permit for the $374 million Enterprise Park project the Cafaro Co. proposes to build on a 106.7-acre site here.

The written comment, submitted by Elissa Yoder Mann, conservation manager for the chapter, begins by asserting, “It is clear that part of the development is going to impact the 100-year floodplain.” This area is “widely known to be prone to flooding,” the document states. “Given consideration to changes in FEMA funding and subsidies for flood insurance, it is unclear how much taxpayers would ultimately be responsible for flooding expenses.”

The agency held a hearing Dec. 3 on the application from North Eastwood LLC, a Cafaro subsidiary, for a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 Individual permit. The deadline for written comments to OEPA was Dec. 10. Should OEPA grant the joint permit, the project would advance.

The Cafaro Co. says the business park would create 2,200 jobs and generate $99 million annually in local payroll taxes, $443,000 in sales taxes and $6 million in real estate taxes.

One of the objections voiced by the Sierra Club centers on the Howland Township Comprehensive Community Plan adopted in 2010.

“Priority was deliberately placed on natural resource preservation,” states the document. “The project site is situated in the Mosquito Creek Corridor in between and adjacent to protected conservation areas, according to the Trumbull County auditor: 141 acres directly to the west and owned by the Trumbull County Metro Parks and 84 acres directly to the north and owned by Howland Township; both were purchased with Clean Ohio funds. Howland Township prepared a Clean Ohio grant application to purchase the 82 acres of the project site but was outbid at the last minute by the current owner, North Eastwood LLC,” the objection states.

Moreover, “the proposed Enterprise Park has ignored the work” of the Trumbull County Planning Commission, which has designated part of land earmarked for the Enterprise Park as a “priority conservation area,” the Sierra Club asserts.
And the club criticizes Mercy Health, “one seemingly committed end user” at the proposed business park, for “a legacy of building new and abandoning old property,” which likely would be the fate of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Warren.
The Cafaro Company says it will build Enterprise Park “without compromising the natural beauty of the site. … Existing Class 3 wetlands along the Mosquito Creek corridor will be untouched,” and some land will be donated for conservation and recreational use.
The business park is expected to combine medical care, professional offices, educational facilities and residential space. The centerpiece would be construction of a $250 million hospital that would be occupied by Mercy Health.
“Nearby would be an assisted living and memory-care facility, a college-level medical/education building, medical and professional office buildings and luxury residential apartments and/or condominiums,” the company says. “Discussions are underway between Youngstown State University and Kent State University at Trumbull in order to collaboratively develop the educational facility.”
Among those endorsing the project at the Dec. 4 hearing were YSU President Jim Tressel, Kent State Trumbull Dean Lance Grahn and Tom Humphries, former president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and chairman of Mercy Health-Youngstown strategic planning committee.
Those speaking in opposition included owners of nearby properties as well as current and former YSU faculty.
Jack Mullen, who owns 18 acres along Mosquito Creek, called the area “one of the finest urban wetlands” and criticized the application as “weak” in terms of addressing wildlife.

“This is simply the wrong place to build,” he said.

Pictured at top: Rendering of the Enterprise Park project.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.