Welcome new development, don’t object
A large local real estate developer is eager to step up, and the plans have been laid. Opportunities for new economic development abound.
But instead of embracing the idea, many objections have arisen in the community — making potential new growth and development a struggle. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time.
We should not stand in the way of new opportunities for growth and development, not to mention the new jobs that could come with them.
That is why we are hopeful that plans to develop the new Enterprise Park in Howland Township will withstand many of the same struggles that have faced other developments in our area.
We are disappointed at the pushback that often comes with plans for new growth in the Mahoning Valley. Here are just a few that come to mind.
In recent memory, we saw objections arise in 2018 when TJX first proposed bringing a new HomeGoods warehouse and distribution center to Lordstown. The company sought a zone change on seven parcels totaling 290 acres from residential to industrial to make way for the 1.2 million-square-foot, $170 million distribution center at Hallock Young and Ellsworth Bailey roads.
Opposition fought the move all the way to the ballot box for a referendum and beyond into the courts, before the project finally was cleared.
Now under construction, the distribution center is expected to be complete this summer.
Several years earlier, objections to a zone change almost cost the area the first Clean Energy Future natural gas-fired power plant. Since then, a second plant also has been constructed — each at an investment of about $900 million.
It was 2014 when the Lordstown planning commission recommended against a zone change on a 57-acre improperly zoned Salt Springs Road site being considered by the company for its power plant. Village council declined to overrule the recommendation.
Luckily, Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill had forged a strong relationship with the company’s leaders and a new nearby location ultimately was secured and approved.
We also recall debates over construction of the very successful food and beverage distributor Anderson-DuBose on state Route 45 in Lordstown. The location was actually the second choice after homeowners and activists in neighboring North Jackson argued in 2011 against a zone change that would have brought the business to that township.
After looking at several other sites, the owners settled on its current site that now employs more than 100 workers and has grown to more than 200,000 square feet.
In Boardman, some residents currently are objecting to zoning changes that will clear the way for construction of a new Meijer superstore and an ancillary gas station. That company is planning to invest about $20 million to build a 159,000-square-foot store on U.S. Route 224, which will employ about 250 people. Construction could begin this year, with the store opening in 2021, if everything is approved in coming weeks.
Certainly, there always is a balance that must be maintained between development and conservation. And we understand some of the concerns raised by residents when new development is pending.
However, we also know that new development, commitments for economic growth and especially the chance to add sorely needed jobs are opportunities that should not be disregarded lightly.
We hope that plans are laid that can satisfy both the environmental concerns and the economic needs of our area.
After all, we should want to be known as the Valley that welcomes new development — not one that tries to stand in the way.