By: Michael P. Kurilla, Jr., MA, Zoning Inspector

On July 28, 1947, the Board of Austintown Township Trustees adopted a resolution declaring the Board’s “intent to proceed” with the adoption of a Township Zoning Ordinance. At that meeting, Township Trustee W.J. Shively, Myron DeHoff and Gaylord Evans appointed the following residents as members of the first Township Zoning Commission: H.L. Leepard; Tom Mozzy; J.F. Blaemire; Edward J. Beil; and S.H. Gwynn. Between the months of July–August, 1948, the Trustees and the Zoning Commission worked with two (2) professional drafters, Mr. Reed and Mr. Gould, in the preparation of the first Township Zoning Map. During this period, the Board and Commission members also worked on a draft Zoning Ordinance text. Township minutes record that Mr. Reed and Mr. Gould submitted an invoice for $436.05 for drafting services in the preparation of the Zoning Map.

On August 30, 1948, a final Trustee’s public hearing was conducted at the Township Fire Station, at which time resident/property owner testimony was received and a series of motions were adopted by the Board concerning the boundaries of the zoning districts to be voted on by the community. At the conclusion of the August 30 public hearing, the Trustees adopted a motion to adopt the zoning resolutions of the Zoning Commission, and submit the following Resolution to the county Board of Elections: “Shall the zoning plan adopted by the Zoning Commission and accepted by the Trustees of Austintown Township, be adopted and approved?” Zoning was adopted and established in Austintown Township by an affirmative vote of the electorate at the November 2, 1948 general election, with a total of 2,441 votes cast—1,962 in favor and 479 opposed to the Resolution.

The first Zoning Ordinance/Township Zoning Map adopted by the Board of Trustees and approved by the voters created six (6) zoning districts: Agricultural District; Residence R-1 District; Residence R-2 District; Residence R-3 District; Business District; Industrial District. By contrast, some 50 years later through the amendment process, the current Zoning Ordinance as amended through May 27, 2007 contains eleven (11) districts: Agricultural A-SER; Residence R-1; Residence R-2; Residence R-3; Residence R-4; Business B-1; Business B-2; Business B-3; Industrial I-1; and Industrial I-2. The first Zoning Ordinance text was a basic, short book containing seven (7) pages; whereas, the current Ordinance text is very detailed and technical, containing 72 pages. Major amendments, actual text changes, to the Zoning Ordinance book occurred in the following years: 1950, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1971, 1979, 1984, 1993, 2000,and 2007. Subjects addressed by the most recent amendments in 2000 and 2007 include the regulation of Adult Entertainment/Sexually Oriented Business establishments; Riparian Setbacks; and Erosion and Sediment Control.

The first Township Board of Zoning Appeals was appointed by the Township Trustees in January, 1949, with the following residents appointed as members: H.L. Leepard, Donald J. O’Hara; Russell Donahue; C.E. Athey; James Casino; and Charles W. Helman, Clerk. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Leepard resigned, with Harry S. Hood appointed to fill his vacancy. During the first year of hearing cases in 1949, the Township Zoning Commission heard 16 cases at public hearing, while the Board of Zoning Appeals heard 24 cases

There have been eight (8) individuals appointed by the Board of Trustees to serve in the position of Zoning Inspector between 1949-2008:
Harmon Brobst January, 1949 to March, 1949
Charles W. Helman March, 1943 to January, 1950
Conrad J. Wem January, 1950 to January, 1951
S. Howard Gwynn January, 1951 to January, 1953
John D. Sirbu January, 1953 to August, 1958
Leah C. Davis (Acting) August, 1958
George P. Stahlman September, 1958 to July, 1962
Leah C. Davis July, 1962 to December, 1981
Michael P. Kurilla, Jr. January, 1982 to October 2008
Darren L. Crivelli October 2008 to Present

The face of the community and geography of Austintown changed from a rural, sparsely populated Township at the time zoning was enacted in 1949, which most of the 1310 townships in the State of Ohio remain today; to an urban, densely populated Township in 2008, ranking in the top ten of Ohio Townships. Board of Trustees have tracked the growth patterns in the Township by using the Zoning Department records, specifically the permits issued for new dwelling units, business and industrial projects. Zoning permit records also record the estimated valuation of new construction completed on an annual basis.

An Eastgate Development and Transportation Agency (EDATA) Housing Study published in January, 1978 estimated that at the time zoning was enacted in Austintown Township in 1949, there were approximately 2,000 existing single family housing units in place. During the first fifteen (15) years that zoning records were kept (1949-1964), modest, incremental growth occurred in the Township:

Zoning Commission heard 336 rezoning cases;
Board of Zoning Appeals heard 279 appeal cases;
Zoning Office issued 5,093 dwelling permits;
Zoning Office recorded at total estimated valuation of new construction completed of $ 82.2 million

The primary catalyst in Austintown changing from a rural to an urban community was the single family housing construction boom which occurred in the decade between 1960-1970. The 1978 EDATA housing study recorded statistics for a four-county geographic area including Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, and Ashtabula counties. This study pointed to the fact that between 1960-1970, Austintown Township had the highest percentage of housing units constructed of any minor civil division in the four- county region. Austintown had the second lowest percentage of persons over the age of 65 years; and recorded a total population increase of 58% in this decade. Also recorded in this decade of growth was the beginning phase of the 25 acre Western Reserve Industrial Park, located on Victoria Road, north of Mahoning Avenue; and a multi-dwelling development trend of several large scale apartment complexes started and continued through the close of the decade. Austin Arms, Wedgewood Apartments, Canterbury Commons, Greenbriar Manors, Fountain Square, and Central Park West were apartment complexes developed along major thoroughfares in the Township. With respect to commercial retail growth, the Austintown Plaza started construction in 1958 and continued in this decade, with the Wedgewood Plaza started in 1961.

The residential housing trend returned to primarily the development of single family dwelling units in the 1970;s with a second significant single family housing boom occurring in the 1990’s. Home Builder Association (HBA) statistics record Austintown Township as being the “lead community” for single family dwelling starts for a decade, spanning the ten (10) year period of 1993-2002. Between 1990-2001, 1,492 single family dwelling permits were issued, with the peak year being 1998, when 187 single family dwelling permits were issued. During the 1998 construction season, fifteen (15) single family dwelling subdivision plats were under construction, with three (3) planned unit development condominium plats under construction.

At the close of 2007, the following residential housing statistics were compiled by the Zoning Office:
Total Dwelling Units 17,158
Single Family Units 12,437
Duplex Units 561
Multi-Dwellings 4,160

In addition to the Austintown housing market being a hotbed of residential activity during the 1990’s; a noticeable trend in the expansion of the business retail market has occurred during the past five (5) year period, 2003-2007; with $66 million in valuation recorded for new business retail construction starts or additions. Calendar year 2007 recorded an all time high business valuation of $ 23.3 million. The following new business starts were constructed during this past five (5) year period, significantly changing the face of the community and expanding the retail business sector: Wal-Mart Superstore expansion; Harley-Davidson of Austintown; Infocision Call Center expansion; 3 Walgreen Drugstores; First Place Bank; Waffle House Restaurant; Austintown Plaza Strip plaza; Home Depot; Austintown Ambulatory Center expansion; Family Video; St. Elizabeth Emergency Room; Weston Center Plaza; Greenwood Hummer dealership; Victoria House assisted living facility; GetGo Service Station; Shepherd of the Valley Warehouse/office; Meander Inn Hospitality Motel; Bob Evans Restaurant; Popeyes Chicken Restaurant; Pelican Park Strip Plaza; Austintown Chrysler dealership expansion; Community Medical Partners professional office; Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant; Belleria Pizza restaurant.
The Zoning Office was established as a two (2) person department, comprised of the Zoning Inspector and an assistant; which it remains in 2008. As stated in the Ohio Revised Code Section 519, the Board of Austintown Township Trustees adopted the original Zoning Resolution in order to “promote the health, safety, and morals” of the community. As each Board of Trustees amends the Zoning Ordinance to address changes and land development challenges in their time, a Township’s local zoning authority provides continuity in the orderly development and controlled growth of the community.

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