AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Life is almost back to normal for shops along Raccoon Road. Business owners near Barry Dyngles, however, say they were not all winners in the massive Queen of Hearts drawing.
Huge crowds brought in business but caused headaches for some shop owners and township officials, as people lined up around the building and down the streets to enter the contest which climbed to $1.8 million before a Warren woman took home the prize.
Austintown Zoning Inspector Darren Crivelli said those crowds forced the township to close Raccoon Road several times for a temporary fix.
“They were encroaching into the public right of way, and they were encroaching into other private property, so they were beyond the scope of their occupancy permits,” he said.
Now, Austintown trustees are looking to control the crowds before they start and before the next Queen of Hearts contest gets out of hand.
“It’s of great concern to us as a township, because we’re looking at individuals and public safety, making sure fire trucks can get through, making sure emergency vehicles can get through,” said Township Trustee Jim Davis.
Just because nothing happened this time, does not mean the township will be so lucky in the future, he said.
“‘We just don’t want people to be able to take over other businesses’ property. As good as it was for some businesses in that corridor, there were some negative impacts on other businesses,” he said.
That has the township looking for a new zoning ordinance to control “mass gatherings.” It is something that they have never needed until now.
“We want to have something that doesn’t hinder the games but provides the adjoining property owners some say in how it’s organized and how it’s conducted,” Crivelli said.
The proposal should be ready for public debate by the end of the year.