Environmental concerns aired during EPA public hearing on proposed Howland project

HOWLAND — A 50-acre, $367 million Cafaro Co. project just east of Mosquito Creek and north of the Eastwood Mall could create a $250 million hospital, plus medical education facilities, offices, apartment building and assisted living of $117 million more and create 2,200 jobs.

But a large number of people attending an Environmental Protection Agency hearing Monday night at Howland High School expressed their concerns about stormwater runoff, destruction of trees and the possibility of another abandoned former hospital site if the Enterprise Park project goes forward.

The OEPA had the hearing because of the public interest in the project and will take the comments expressed Monday and submitted through Dec. 10 into consideration before deciding whether to allow the project, said OEPA representatives Kristopher Weiss and Rich Blasick.

Blasick explained to the approximately 100 people that the Cafaro proposal includes a plan for the Cafaro Co. to purchase 32 wetland credits to enhance wetlands elsewhere in the Mahoning River watershed to compensate for wetlands to be affected by this project.

The project is not likely to adversely affect endangered species or threatened species, the OEPA said in a notice it issued earlier. For example, a study did not find potential habitat for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

The OEPA is not “deep in the process” of analyzing the Enterprise Park project but wanted public input before getting to that step, Weiss said.

A Cafaro Co. news release says the centerpiece of the project would be a state-of-the-art hospital in a five-to-six-floor building. St. Joseph Warren Hospital/Mercy Health Partners and Akron Children’s Hospital have submitted letters in support for Enterprise Park, and they are the likely hospital occupants in the project, the Cafaro Co. says.