Zoning change vote to follow public hearing

Meeting over proposed TJX?center land set for June 16

LORDSTOWN — The first village council vote on the zoning change requests laying the groundwork for the proposed 1.2 million-square-foot TJX Companies Inc. HomeGoods distribution center will take place June 16, immediately following an 11 a.m. public hearing.

A special village council meeting Tuesday included a reading of a village planning commission letter from Monday’s meeting, which unanimously approved changing 294 acres of residential property to industrial. With that reading, council will begin working to either approve or reject the seven zoning change requests.

Construction costs are projected to be $160 million, and over the course of five years, HomeGoods is promising at least 1,000 jobs.

It will take the vote of five council members to overrule the planning commission’s “yes” vote.

Councilman Ronald Radtka, who owns three acres of the property, is not allowed to vote because the councilman’s family is expected to benefit from the sale of the properties.

At least two council members, Karen Jones and Robert Bond, have openly questioned the wisdom of changing the zoning from residential to industrial. At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Bond sought to amend the meeting’s agenda to allow people in the audience to discuss the issue during a public participation period.

Council voted 4-2 against having public participation. Lamar Liming, Don Reider, Howard Sheeley and Radtka voted against public participation. Bond and Jones voted for allowing public participation.

Mayor Arno Hill told the approximately 25 people attending the meeting that village officials are not attempting to prevent residents from voicing their concerns. Hill said residents will be able to voice their concerns during public participation periods during regular council meetings and during council’s public hearing.

The mayor said he has advised TJX Companies Inc. officials they should release as much written documentation about their proposals — including the level of tax abatements they may seek — prior to council’s votes.

“In order to serve our residents better, let them know exactly what is going on,” Hill said. “If they know the schools are going to be taken care of, the village is going to be taken care of.”

Lordstown Superintendent Terry Armstrong said the district has not had any formal discussions with TJX officials about finances and tax abatements. Armstrong said there is approximately $7,600 worth of taxes currently paid on the properties. If the company receives a 100 percent tax abatement, the district would receive $239,076; at a 75 percent abatement, the district would receive $417,227 in taxes and at zero percent abatement, the district would receive $712,604 in taxes.

Armstrong said when TJX officials met with Board of Education President Bill Catlin, Treasurer Mark Ferrara and himself, there were discussions about establishing a freight and logistics training program for Lordstown students within the school district that would prepare students for distribution jobs.

“They seemed receptive to the idea,” Armstrong said. “I asked for the TJX officials to meet with our full board once the zoning votes are completed.”

Armstrong also said they discussed different needs of the district, but did not elaborate what they were.

Of the approximately 294 acres of the property, which is located along Ellsworth-Bailey and Hallock Young roads, 121 acres belong to Harvey and Dolly Lutz; three acres belong to Ronald and Cynthia Radtka; and 170.2 acres belong to DBR LLC of Ohio, which is a for-profit corporation started by Radtka’s family. Approximately 6.1 acres already has been purchased by TJX Companies Inc.

The company has purchase agreements with the remaining properties.

Hill said the printing of a legal notice in the Tribune Chronicle on Thursday will begin a 30-day waiting period before the council will have a public hearing about the proposed zoning change.

“Council likely will have an expedited series of special meetings to make sure votes on the proposal are done as quickly as possible,” Hill said.

“If the zone change is approved, opponents to the zone change will have 30 days to collect signatures to place a referendum on the ballot allowing residents to overturn council’s decision during the next election,” Hill said. “That is why we want the expedited vote, so if there is a referendum, it will be on the November ballot.”

Jones said she has been told it will take 125 signatures of registered Lordstown voters to place the referendum against the zoning change on the ballot.