Door still open on power plant

LORDSTOWN – The Lordstown Planning Commission’s defeat last week of a proposed zone change requested by a power plant developer doesn’t slam the door on the project.

Some options that could breathe new life into it include pursuit of other nearby parcels of land, a possible council vote that could overturn the planning commission’s recommendation, or even a referendum vote on an upcoming election ballot.

“They are looking at other ways to get to the power grid,” Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said Wednesday. “We are just trying to figure out ways. I have got several people involved to see how we can make this work.”

Clean Energy Future is proposing construction of the $800 million natural gas-fueled power plant on a 57-acre parcel at 1107 Salt Springs Road. A message left seeking comment Wednesday from company President Bill Siderewicz was not immediately returned.

Siderewicz said on several occasions prior to the vote that the Salt Springs location is the only area in the village the company would consider due to its proximity to already-established necessary high voltage power lines.

Hill and local commercial Real Estate broker Dan Crouse, who is representing Siderewicz, noted Wednesday, however, that other property options do exist.

“I know that he wants it in Lordstown. He showed absolutely no signs of backing away from Lordstown,” Crouse said. “But it has to be around those three power lines, those three circuits.”

Hill confirmed that the company is now looking at other Lordstown parcels that would not require a zone change.

“I would say there’s probably a half-dozen different options,” the mayor said.

The challenge, though, is getting access to the grid, which likely would mean running lines over private property.

“Here’s the thing, this is a private company,” Hill said. “Even though they are generating electricity for the public use, they can’t use the element of eminent domain to get access.”

Hill, who serves on the village planning commission, cast the only yes vote at last week’s meeting in favor of changing zoning from residential / business to industrial. The measure failed 4-1. The planning commission’s recommendation to deny the zone change is expected to come before village council July 21. Council must wait 30 days before holding a public hearing and then give the measure three readings before rendering a final decision.

Approval for council to override the recommendation will require a minimum vote of 5-1. Passage is not expected, however, because two council members already have spoken publicly against the zone change.

Yet another option includes putting the measure on the ballot.

“There are very few people who are in town that are against this plant. They are just against the spot where it was proposed,” Hill noted.