Council rules: no power lines behind the amphitheater

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(WKBN) — The Ohio Power Siting Board voted unanimously Thursday to reject a plan by FirstEnergy to run high-voltage power lines behind the new amphitheater and next to the Covelli Center in downtown Youngstown.

“Youngstown, Ohio wants what every other community in the state of Ohio wants,” Mayor Tito Brown told council after the decision was announced. “We want a quality of life, we want an opportunity to grow in our community. Your decision today has helped us do just that. Thank you.”

The council’s decision ends, at least for now, what has been a contentious four-month debate over the power line project, which nearly everyone opposed, with an interest in the city center of Youngstown.

In a statement, FirstEnergy spokesperson Brittany Al Dawood said, “The goal of this project has always been to maintain a safe and reliable power supply for downtown Youngstown businesses and neighborhood residents. neighbors while supporting the growth of the local economy. We remain committed to this goal while evaluating today’s decision and its impact on the project. »

Prior to the board vote, President Jenifer French explained that the reason she favored the rejection was that “the proposed project could not demonstrate that it met the convenience and necessity of the public interest, as required by Ohio law”.

French said the placement of a transmission line must consider “the impact on recreation, cultural resources, regional planning, and the prosperity of the local community and the State of Ohio.”

After FirstEnergy’s plan was made public in late January, 120 letters and comments were sent to the implementation committee opposing the plan.

State Representative Jeff Crossman of Parma, a nonvoting board member, was the only other person to speak at the meeting. Crossman, who visited the amphitheater site, urged the council to reject the plan.

Asked if the outpouring of opposition caused the council to reject the plan, Crossman said: ‘It was absolutely crucial. This is how democracy works. You need to make your voice heard. One hundred and twenty people submitted public comments to the board and that was a big part of the reason the board voted the way it did.

Afterwards, State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan, Youngstown Councilman Julius Oliver and Youngstown Flea owner Derrick McDowell held a press conference in Wean Park, near where the power lines would have past.

“I’m so glad our voices were heard,” Lepore-Hagan said. “We always have to make sure that we are not pushed around. We have to understand that we can organize together.

Oliver called it “a big day for the city of Youngstown”, calling the issue with FirstEnergy, “David…against a Goliath”.

“We never railed against the idea that this project is necessary,” McDowell said.

The slogan used by Youngstown residents opposed to the project was: “Good project, bad location”.

“The project is needed, they just chose the wrong location and unfortunately they have to go back to the drawing board and find the correct location. The fact that the citation committee listened to our outcry. It was really a collective group that said, “No, you can’t do that where we’ve invested $60 million,” said Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management Group.

McDowell urged FirstEnergy to “come to the city of Youngstown and spare no expense to do the right thing.”

During her statement, President French said the implementation committee had learned that there was a “need to upgrade the electrical transmission system in the Youngstown-Campbell area.”

She urged FirstEnergy to “work with the community to come up with a new plan”.

FirstEnergy has 30 days to file an appeal with the Ohio Power Siting Board. If denied again, the next step would be to appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

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