Development project will force 88-year-old from Youngstown home

Bertha Tillis has lived on N. Lane Avenue across from the Royal Oaks since 1961

A project to bring business to the city will force 88-year-old Bertha Tillis from her Youngstown home.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown City Council passed two votes Wednesday evening to create an industrial park on the east side, the same project that will force an elderly woman out of her home of 55 years.

Bertha Tillis, 88, has lived on N. Lane Avenue across from the Royal Oaks since 1961. She loves sitting on the porch and watching traffic.

Tillis was at the meeting Wednesday where, by a unanimous vote, council changed the zoning of her property and 21 acres around it from residential to industrial.

Council also set aside $375,000 to buy her house and the whole neighborhood to build the industrial park, meaning Tillis will be forced to leave.

No one discussed her plight at the meeting because her family and friends were not allowed to speak after failing to give one week’s notice. However, everyone was talking afterward.

Tillis’ daughter-in-law, Audry, has become her spokesperson. She says council should consider the impact leaving the home where she raised her children will have on Tillis.

“It’s her home, it’s not just a house,” Audry said. “The safety that she has in her environment, where she’s at, the people that are around her, her neighbors, everybody that looks out for her.”

Mayor John McNally talked with the Tillis family after the meeting, and says the city has been negotiating with them.

“Part of the negotiations will be to try and figure out where we can find another property for her to live,” he said. “For us to develop that whole site the way we would like to over time, we really need to own all those properties.”

Audry says they’ve been offered $13,000.

“That’s not enough to move her out of that space, and she doesn’t want to move, for one thing, but that’s not enough.”

She hopes they won’t have to take this to court. Audry plans to address council again at its next meeting on October 5.

Natarasha Gillam, who lives across the street from Tillis, was also at the meeting and says she’s been offered $9,000 after the city forced her to put on a new roof and install new windows.

“I think I should be reimbursed for what I did to that house, and then I will move. I mean, I need my money back because it wasn’t fair,” she said.

City council also approved spending $12,000 to help the owner of an old church on East Rayen Avenue. He plans to turn it into a brewery and tap house called Noble Creature Cask House. It is set to open next spring.

This story is corrected to show that the property was rezoned from residential to industrial.

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