LORDSTOWN - A local manufacturer has stepped into the debate on whether the village should change the zoning on a 57-acre plot at 1107 Salt Springs Road from residential and commercial to industrial in order to build a natural gas-powered power plant. The plant, valued at $800 million, could bring 25 to 30 new full-time jobs to the village.
Critics of the proposal said the building of the plant could lower property values. They also argue there are other sites in the community that already are zoned industrial and would be more appropriate to place the multi-million dollar facility.
In a letter sent to Mayor Arno Hill and village council members, Regina M. Mitchell, owner of Warren Fabricating & Machining Corp., suggested that those opposing the building of the plant are being short-sighted.
The letter also was signed by several dozen employees at the Warren Fabricating plant.
Mitchell, whose company builds the power-generating equipment that may be used at the plant, suggested the industry is facing a war on coal that is placing new regulations aimed at lowering greenhouse emissions. However, the letter said that the regulations also may have contributed to 138 companies being put out of business.
"There are 207 coal-fired power plants that are expected to shut their doors in the current decade," Mitchell said in the letter. "Clean Energy Future, LLC is bringing the village of Lordstown its cleanest, safest and most cost-effective means to produce electricity."
Mitchell, in the letter, called the land Holy Grail, because it holds the trifecta of power lines, water lines and natural gas lines all necessary to make this project cost effective for the developer to implement.
"For residents who want the project but (to) be able to stipulate the conditions of where it should be is ludicrous," she wrote.
Warren Fabricating has recently invested $4 million in an expansion of a new bay at its Hubbard facility. Mitchell said her company also can add 30 to 50 new full-time employees with the addition of new U.S. natural gas-powered plants.
Hill said he agrees with a lot of what was printed in Mitchell's letter.
"We do not want to allow this project to slip away," the mayor said. "There was much due diligence done by the company in choosing the proposed location of the plant."
Hill suggested the village has indeed won the lottery in being selected as a possible site for the power plant.
"There are other areas that would want this company to move into their communities," Hill said. "Warren and Girard want to have the right to sell the company their water."
Hill suggested the amount of water used by this company likely would replace what Warren lost when RG Steel closed.
Although about 150 people attended the first zoning board meeting about the possible zone change, Hill described the second meeting as significantly smaller, less volatile.
"Once people heard the facts, only about a third came out," Hill said. "I can't say whether they were sold on the project, but at least they've heard the facts."
Councilman Robert Bond says he is against the zone change, but not against the power plant moving into Lordstown if it is placed on property that is already zoned industrial.
"What is being proposed is spot zoning," Bond said. "This is a piece of property that does not touch any other property that is zoned industrial. It makes a stab through areas zoned residential. I would not want it in my back yard."
Planning and zoning commission meetings typically take place at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of the month.
Hill said no matter what the zoning commission recommendation is, the issue will be taken before village council for its vote.