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‘Not Going to Apologize for Site,’ TJX Exec Tells Residents

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Lisa Luzadder isn’t opposed to the prospect of bringing a $160 million distribution center and 1,000 jobs to the village.

She just doesn’t want it 300 feet from her property.

“I have a large issue with this,” Luzadder said shortly after executives from TJX Companies Inc. presented details about the project to village residents during a public meeting at the Lordstown Administration Building. “I’m going to be looking at buildings, trucks, parking lots, docks – I don’t care how much landscaping you put on a building, I’m still going to see the building,” she said.

Luzadder, who lives at 2532 Pritchard Ohltown Road, said the proposed distribution center’s parking lot would be located about 300 feet from her backyard property line.

“I’m all for expansion and bringing jobs to the area – we’ve lost a lot from General Motors – but I don’t think we need to take away from the community when there are other facilities that are already zoned commercial or industrial,” she said.

Luzadder was one of more than 200 residents who packed the administration building Monday to learn more about the project and how it would impact everyday life in the village.

TJX, the parent of retailers TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls, has selected a 290-acre site along Ellsworth Bailey Road to construct a 1.2 million square-foot distribution center for its HomeGoods brand. The project is expected to employ at least 1,000 workers – a conservative number — 150 of which are professional positions such as finance and management, said Joe Dubord, senior vice president of distribution services for HomeGoods. Payroll at the center would be about $600,000 per week, he said.

“We’re not going to apologize for the site we’re going to build,” Dubord told the crammed meeting room. “This is going to be a first-class, great operation. We take great pride in the design, the curb appeal, landscaping – the accessibility in and out.”

Dubord said the new center would be a technologically advanced operation that will also include office space. The company selected the Lordstown site because of its proximity to its retail stores, highway access, and the availability of a viable labor force, he said.

“We’re proud of the project. We’re here, and we’re excited,” he said.

Mark Walker, HomeGoods’ senior vice president of real estate, told residents that the site would be insulated with a wooded buffer, and that truck traffic would be limited to Ellsworth Bailey Road and the industrial section of Hallock Young Road, which runs astride General Motors Co.’s Lordstown Assembly plant.

Walker said that the distribution center would serve 300 stores, noting that the project could be finished in about a year and-a-half. “This is a project that we would really like to get going,” he said.

Normally, it would take about 130 acres to build the new center, Walker explained. However, in this case, the company purchased 290 acres to allow added buffer areas for the community.

“It allows for a lot of responsible development,” he said, including proper retention, a realignment of Hallock Young Road, maintaining wooded areas that would block sight of the new center. He emphasized, for example, that there would be 600 feet – about the size of two football fields – of timbered area between residents on Hallock Young and the distribution center.

Other sites in Lordstown simply didn’t have this sort of acreage available, Walker said, since many alternative sites were encumbered with wetlands issues, Walker said. “We wanted a large enough site where we could maintain an open area and insulation from the surrounding properties.”

Residents of the nearby Imperial mobile home park, located across from the development at 3293 Ellsworth Bailey Rd., say that while the company has created buffers for other residential areas, the center would be an eyesore for those living there.

“They’re telling us ‘We don’t count,’” said Rich Williams, a resident at the park of 14 years. “I paid nearly $80,000 for my house there. If you open my front door, you look directly at the field where they’re going to build this.” He added that there is concern for nearby property values and that this center would make it difficult to sell his house in the future.

Other nearby residents say there are plenty of other sites across Lordstown that are zoned appropriately, and there’s no need to plant a distribution center on land that would encroach on residents’ property.

Les Jones, who lives on Hallock Young Road, said it makes no sense to have zoning laws if they can’t be enforced and changed to suit large business operations. He said the development would cause drainage issues potential flood problems once new blacktop is installed. “We’ve had problems with water coming off this hill the whole time I’ve lived here, with all the salt and everything else, it’s not going to work. It’s going to create problems for us,” Jones said.

Other residents in the area welcome the new development and see this as an important asset, since major industrial operations such as GM have cut their workforce over the years.

Jerry Apger, a resident of 75 years who lives on Salt Springs Road, said this is just the kind of opportunity the community needs.

“I think it’s going to great for the community,” Apger said. “I think it’s a plus for Lordstown because you’ll get some tax dollars from construction workers and the workforce.

He said the truck traffic would not be any more disruptive than the activity associated with the GM plant. “There are trucks coming in and out of GM every day,” he said.

Over the next eight days, the company will present a petition for zone change from residential to industrial, said Mayor Arno Hill. The information will then be given to the planning commission and a vote would be taken on March 26.

“We want to make sure we have all the information correct,” he said. Should the commission approve the change, the measure would be placed before the village council. The six-member council, Hill said, would need five votes to overturn the recommendation of the planning commission.

Should the zoning change be approved, residents have the right to file a petition to force the issue on the ballot in the fall.

“It is not a done deal,” Hill said. “If the company can’t become a good fit, then the jobs are going to east central Pennsylvania,” he said. “That was their second site.”

Pictured: Mark Walker, HomeGoods’ senior vice president of real estate explaining the new road setup after traffic research was conducted.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.