MAHONING COUNTY Annexation's OK puts county, trustees at odds

A shopping center, motel and homes are planned for the land, officials have said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners approved annexation Thursday of about 105 acres from Green Township to Salem, in Columbiana County.
The move was made without comment during the panel's meeting, but drew an angry response from township Trustee Donald Kuhns.
Trustees opposed the annexation, so Kuhns was upset that it was approved. He was even more angered at not being notified that it was on the commissioners' agenda.
"I didn't even know they were going to vote on it," Kuhns said. "If I'd have known, I would have been there. But I guess you can't speak up if you don't know it's going to happen."
Kuhns said trustees were promised that they would be notified when commissioners planned to vote.
Called an oversight: Thomas Smith, commissioners clerk, said it was an oversight that the trustees were not notified, though commissioners have no legal responsibility to inform them. Smith said he would call Kuhns and apologize.
He said trustees did get a chance to voice their opposition during a hearing in July, and they spoke out against the proposal.
The property is a mix of several homes and vacant fields just east of Salem, north of state Route 14. Part of the property also borders Egypt Road.
Bruce Capel, a real estate agent from Salem who represents the four property owners involved, has said the annexation was needed primarily so the land can get city water and sewer service.
Capel said developers from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York are interested in developing the property. He has not named the developers, but said they want to build a shopping center, motel and homes.
The land is across from the site of a new Wal-Mart store that's to be built later this year or early next year.
Trustees' objections: Trustees objected to the traffic and maintenance impact the development will have on Egypt Road, which is maintained by the township, but commissioners said development is the way to go.
"I think that's the best use of the land," said Commissioner David Ludt.
Commissioners spent a half-day in July looking over the site and talking with Columbiana County officials, said Commissioner Ed Reese. He was convinced that the annexation would open the door for progress.
"Who are we to stop that?" he said.
Ludt and Reese said the landowners met all the legal requirements so commissioners had little choice in the matter anyway. Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock was absent.
Commissioners also approved a seven-year, 49-percent property tax abatement for Player Wire Wheels Inc., which plans to expand its facility on Meridian Road in Austintown Township. Township trustees approved the abatement earlier in the week.