COPLEY TWP.: In spite of some township residents’ pleas to halt any action that would clear Walmart’s proposed move to the northern portion of Rothrock Road, trustees voted Tuesday to enter into an agreement with the retailer and its local partner, LRC Development Co.
Nearly 40 residents who live along Rothrock Road, where Walmart and Sam’s Club want to move, told trustees they did not want the stores in their neighborhood and asked trustees to help keep them out.
“Do what you can to stop this because there will be so much bad will if it is built,” said Dr. Ethan Schafer of Rosemont Ridge. “It is quite clear that no one wants a Walmart built here but Larry Levey, the developer.”
The trustees’ vote was 2-1, with Scott Dressler opposing.
Trustee President Dale Panovich said trustees received a letter from the Summit County Engineer’s Office saying the department had no objections to the move.
She told residents there was little trustees can do if the developer meets all the zoning requirements, because the area is already zoned commercial.
“This doesn’t mean that Walmart can build tomorrow,” she said. There are stipulations that still must be met with other agencies, she said.
Gay Bisheimer, also of Rosemont Ridge, asked trustees how a big-box store would be allowed to build in the area when other nearby businesses are not as large.
Trustee Helen Humphreys said she sat on the zoning board in 1989 when the local zoning changed from residential to regional retail. She said square footage has never been addressed in zoning codes, but issues like location and soil have been considered.
She said Rothrock Road was built with the purpose of using it as an access road to the north from Cleveland-Massillon Road.
The attorney representing Fairway Park apartments, Scott Ruport, differed with trustees. He has filed suit against Walmart and the developer on the issue that the size of Walmart does not fit the current code.
Panovich acknowledged a petition sent to trustees and signed by 79 people who live in Copley Place, a seniors community, who oppose the Walmart development. Copley Place is on Rothrock Road.
On Monday, Fairlawn City Council introduced legislation to revisit two ordinances authorizing the closure of two roads to limit access to a portion of Rothrock Road and the proposed Walmart and Sam’s Club.
Fairlawn is working to deter Walmart from building a 24-hour Supercenter and a Sam’s Club that would include gas pumps on a 40-acre undeveloped site. The retailer plans to close its stores in the Rosemont Plaza in Fairlawn, less than a mile from the Rothrock Road site.
Mayor Bill Roth said a gate system will not be used immediately because of weather restrictions, but the city will continue with its plans to shut down a portion of Rothrock Road based on the original ordinances passed in April.
The earlier legislation allows the city to close Rosemont Boulevard at Rothrock Road and Rothrock Road just west of Sawgrass Drive.
The Rosemont Boulevard ordinance also has a provision that allows the road to reopen to accommodate emergency safety vehicles only.
“We can’t proceed with the bid for the gate system because the weather prevents the total construction, but there are temporary devices or barriers we can put up for now,” Roth said Monday.
He contends that if nothing is done, the developer could build the stores based on a current traffic study that does not account for the road closings.
Fairlawn’s previous plan to install a gate system before the fall also was foiled when Copley trustees sued the city over the legality of closing the road. Trustees contend the road is county owned and the city cannot deny access to the public.
The township also contends the gate system would harm other nearby businesses and would create a problem for emergency vehicles needing access to the area.
Although Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty denied two preliminary injunctions to block the installation of the gate system, she has yet to rule on the legality of the road closings.
In her Oct. 3 ruling denying the preliminary injunctions, McCarty said Fairlawn has a “legitimate concern in preventing Rothrock Road from becoming a major thoroughfare” but warned the city risks having to take down costly gates should the township prevail in court.
Fairlawn has said the gate system would cost about $327,000.
Roth has called a meeting for Friday with safety forces in the surrounding area, including Bath, Copley and Akron, to discuss his city’s plans to restrict access.
“The meeting is basically to explain how the safety barriers will be set up and how access for safety forces will work,” he said.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or at firstname.lastname@example.org