Brookfield has isolated itself from key economic development efforts and infrastructure improvement possibilities by not having zoning, officials familiar with those efforts have said.
Zoning is one of the first things site selectors for industrial and commercial developers look for, said Lauren Johnson, manager of the 422 corridor and Mahoning County business development for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. She spoke at the Brookfield trustees’ July 23 public hearing on the proposed zoning resolution that will be on the November ballot.
“Although we certainly can’t speak on behalf of all companies, most of the companies that we work with consider zoning as a factor in their site-selection process,” she said. “Having designated development areas that are available for investment is important to companies no matter what industry they’re in. We’ve found from our experience that most of the companies we work with prefer sites and buildings with existing building codes to protect their investments from incompatible uses. If they’re moving into our market and spending tens of millions of dollars and creating jobs, they want that investment to be protected from any future development that might interfere with the company’s operations.”
Sara Daugherty, economic development program manager for Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, which serves local communities and helps with transportation, water quality, economic development and other issues, said she purposely overlooks Brookfield in some of her work.
“In my role, I do a lot of (computer) modeling,” Daugherty said. “For me, when I’m putting together a model for what potential infrastructure investments to utilize for the state and federal governments, and my model of the communities in the Mahoning Valley, Brookfield is black. I cannot consider you as part of my model because there is no zoning. I can’t even do a simple market analysis for something like the square. I can’t tell you what future uses, what future businesses would be good there because there isn’t the basis to do that. To me, it’s like you’re trying to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but you don’t even have a knife.”
Hubbard Township Trustee Fred Hanley said that, for all the things Brookfield and Hubbard Township have in common – proposed injection wells, abandoned coal mines, loss of jobs, closed mills – his township has skipped over Brookfield for joint economic development efforts.
In its just-completed comprehensive plan, Hubbard Township created corridor districts along Routes 304, 62 and 82 in conjunction with Hubbard city and Liberty Township.
“What we did not consider, please don’t take this derogatorily, Route 7,” Hanley said. “If you can see the numerical count for motor vehicles on Route 7, it could be a goldmine for business. A goldmine. We did not consider a corridor district north on 7 because you guys have no plan. Zoning is a plan for land use.”