While one business opportunity recently escaped the Village of West Jefferson, village council has passed an ordinance to take advantage of another.
Recently, council had passed several pieces of legislation for a new business called Project Green to open at the West Jefferson Commerce Park. While that business seemed to be on track to build a new facility, the village received word that the company had shifted direction and chose to relocate to an existing building in the Chicago area.
The opportunity for a new business entering the area was not lost however as another company, now called Project Blackstone, has requested zoning changes for 6.35 acres of land, located on state Route 29, to be re-zoned from B-2 (highway business) to PCD (planned commercial district) as soon as possible.
Mayor Darlene Steele explained that Project Blackstone now represents a bigger advantage for the village than the canceled Project Green.
“Project Green is a project we lost and they went to an existing building in Chicago,” Steele said. “Quickly on the boot-heels of that, Project Blackstone popped up. It is a bigger building and represents more employees for the area.”
The ordinance was declared an emergency due to the desires of Project Blackstone to get started as soon as possible and passed unanimously.
Council president Ron Garver took advantage of the news to address some of the negative postings on a social media website.
“I have read a lot of things on Facebook, with people saying that we don’t do anything up here, but that‘s not true,” Garver said. “A lot of important things are accomplished by council by bringing in new businesses like this. We have doubled our tax rate, created jobs, money goes to the schools and we have money from fees from companies tapping into our water lines that have helped to keep our water rates low for our residents. We also have a lot of improvements planned for our water plant. We are all residents, we live here and care about this town.”
Steele agreed and said things have changed from the old ways of handling important issues in the village for its residents.
“We don’t put Band-Aids on things any more,” Steele said. “We are fixing roads in Westwood not just patching them. We are making repairs to our water plant.”
While the West Jefferson Commerce Park has been a great success for the village, several downtown businesses like the Abby Gift Shop and The MustardSeed Café have recently closed their businesses. Garver pointed out that the village welcomes new businesses but does not handle opening and operating businesses, this in light of another long term business leaving town.
“I’ve read that Facebook stuff,” Garver said. “We can’t open a grocery store. People have to face it that the reason that businesses like the MustardSeed close is because people do not support them.”
The village is facing another local business closing its doors. Steele announced that despite efforts to help the situation, the China Wok will close. The business’ landlord, Polhmann Properties, informed the business that they were raising their rent by 30 percent. That drastic increase and the fact that they could not find another suitable building means they are closing their doors to their family business after 10 years in West Jefferson.
“It’s very sad,” Steele said. “We tried to help them. We tried to see if the MustardSeed location might work for them but they needed more space than that. There just isn’t another location that fits their business.”
In other council action, an ordinance was passed that authorizes a supplemental appropriation in the Capital Project Fund to account for expenditures for various street improvements to the Westwood Estates subdivision.
The village was awarded a zero-interest loan for $400,000 and a grant for $400,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission for the project. The village also has $304,000 in out of pocket expenses for the project and must record on its books the expenses related to the project related to engineering and construction.
The capital improvements are planned for Parkdale Road, Kirkwood Drive, Bexford Road, Kingsdale Court, Norwood Drive, West Court Street and East Court Street.
“Our goal is to turn loose on July 2 and get going on this,” Public Service Director Dave Metzger said. “This is going to be a really good project for the village when we are done.”
Council also passed an accompanying resolution accepting a proposal from Mannik and Smith Group Inc. for engineering design services for the project.