City residents sound off on future at comp plan meeting

WARREN — A meeting Tuesday that was supposed to be about the city’s comprehensive plan turned into a wide ranging discussion about marijuana, housing and economic development.

In the second of two public meetings designed to outline what has been done so far on Warren’s plan, more than 60 residents crowded into council chambers to have their say about the city’s current condition and its future.

One resident, Hugh Dillard, warned city leaders they should not consider becoming involved with the legal marijuana business. City council recently passed a resolution supporting an effort by Youngstown businessman Herb Washington to open a marijuana dispensary in the city, if the state of Ohio approves it.

“Why get involved?” Dillard said. “People who use it and try to get a job will not be able to get the job if they have the marijuana in their system. A person who is stopped by police and has it in his system may have to go to jail.”

Dillard, with the encouragement of some audience members, warned the dispensary that is being proposed for the city will eventually hurt, not help, the city’s future.

“Don’t do it,” he said. “You’re opening up Pandora’s box.”

The Trumbull County Planning Commission was hired by the city in 2016 to do its comprehensive plan for $99,000. The planning commission said the plan would be completed in three years, and the commission has completed about half the work.

The Rev. Avan Odom of Friendship Baptist Church in Warren asked what is the eventual cost of the comprehensive plan to city residents.

“There is no hidden agenda to raise taxes,” Mayor Doug Franklin said. “We have not updated our comprehensive plan since 1960. If will cost us in opportunities if we don’t do a plan. This will help us be successful in applying for grants.”

Tina Milner, a community activist, said she talked to a local businessman who said he is ready to move from the city because the city is not working with him.

“Have him call me,” Franklin said.

Pierson “Butch” Butcher, another community activist, questioned if the property that formerly belonged to Diane Sauer Chevrolet is being considered to become a gated community.

“We have people who live in Florida and others who live in Howland, Champion and other communities that would consider moving into the city if they would feel safe,” Butcher said. “A gated community would make them feel safe.”

Franklin said the city is not, at this time, considering making the land — now identified as the Peninsula — a gated community, but added the area is part of the comprehensive plan.

“We are looking at it as a mixed use area for retail, office space and residential development,” he said.“If we find the right developer with the right development, we would consider giving the property to the developer.”

City resident Robert Harvey III asked the city to work with him in funding or providing matching funds to develop a program that would encourage residents with business ideas to write small business plans. He also would like to see the creation of an adult resolution and mediation center and a program at which residents with fines and city debts can work them off.

Larry Jordan described himself as a landlord and suggested that property owners be considered small businessmen and encouraged in their endeavors.

The city housing stock, according to the data by the planning commission, is approximately 40 percent rental.

“My properties are right next to where I live,” Jordan said. “I keep an eye on them.”

Jackie Gore, a southwest side resident, said the city needs to work on getting a supermarket on the south side.

“If I could get a Giant Eagle or a Wal-Mart to open a store by asking, it would have been done,” Franklin said. “It does not work that way.”

Franklin, however, asked the audience to call their congressman to support a bipartisan proposal to provide incentives to supermarkets to locate in Warren, which is considered a “food desert.”