Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it might have been built faster than a local judge is taking to figure out whether to close a road.
More than 34 weeks have passed since the last word was uttered in a trial pitting Copley Township against the city of Fairlawn.
As you probably know, thanks to years of controversy, the road in question is Rothrock, which runs directly in front of a proposed 24-hour Walmart/Sam’s Club megacomplex on 40 Copley acres.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty has yet to hand down her ruling, and late last week she wouldn’t even provide a rough estimate on how much longer it might take.
Rothrock is a two-lane, almost-rural road on the western tip of Fairlawn that winds around the Rosemont Ridge development.
Rosemont is not your everyday neighborhood. Current real estate listings show houses on the market for $369,900, $599,900 and $759,000.
The battle lines are clear.
• Fairlawn: It’s our road. We can close it to protect our residents from ridiculous amounts of traffic.
• Copley: You’re just doing this out of spite because Walmart is leaving you for us. The public paid for this road, and the public desperately needs this road, so the public should be able to use it.
That, when all is said and done, is pretty much how the whole thing boils down.
But plenty more has been said and done along the way, as witnessed by the length of the trial — six weeks — and the length of time this issue has been floating around in the public eye — six years.
When the lawyers finally ran out of breath shortly before 5 p.m. July 13, McCarty told them she would hand down her ruling “after careful deliberation of both sides’ arguments,” the Beacon Journal reported the next day. “She gave no timetable for her decision.”
As of this morning, she has been doing her homework for 240 days. Good lord. The U.S. Supreme Court needed only 103 days to decide Miranda v. Arizona.
Yes, there’s a lot riding on this decision.
Allowing the permanent closing of Rothrock between Cleveland-Massillon Road and the new Walmart/Sam’s could turn the motoring circus of Montrose into perpetual gridlock.
Transportation experts estimate the addition of those huge stores would increase traffic near the site from 3,000 cars a day to 13,000 — all of which could get to Walmart only from the north, via state Route 18, which is already the heart of the Montrose madness.
On the other hand, prohibiting the closing would bring a perpetual swarm of cars and trucks to all sides of a largely residential area that includes not only Rosemont Ridge’s 168 homes, but also 104 units at the Enclave condos, as well as 600 residents in the Fairway Park luxury apartments and 132 residents at the Copley Place senior complex.
Leaving the road open also would pull plenty of additional cars off Interstate 77 onto the already congested Cleveland-Massillon Road.
The Battle of Rothrock Road began way back in October 2006, when the initial warning shot was fired by the developer, who sent a letter to Copley’s attorney. The letter asked about road improvements and signs in connection with the potential construction of two huge, unnamed stores, both more than twice the size of the township’s biggest store, the 45,000-square-foot Best Buy.
Things really heated up in early 2008, when the same developer submitted a site plan labeled “Walmart.”
But a few days before Christmas in 2008, the Beacon Journal declared the whole thing dead, quoting Walmart officials who said they had decided to spend $800,000 renovating the existing Fairlawn operation in Rosemont Commons, less than a mile away.
Then, suddenly, after an 18-month truce, the original proposal resurfaced. All hell broke loose. Since then, half a dozen lawsuits have been filed.
I’ve been watching this unfold with mixed emotions.
I can certainly sympathize with the homeowners, whose neighborhood will take an aesthetic, aural and financial beating if Rothrock stays open.
But the west side of Rothrock has been zoned commercial since 1989. Rosemont Ridge started sprouting houses in 1994. Should those homeowners be shocked that an area zoned commercial eventually would draw commercial enterprises?
The greater public good — if there is one in this mess — clearly calls for keeping Rothrock open and widening it considerably, with the good folks down in Bentonville, Ark., picking up the tab.
Either way, it’s time to stop prolonging the agony.
Here’s how long this thing has been in limbo: A child born when the idea surfaced would be in first grade today.
Maybe the same dog that ate that kid’s homework ate the judge’s, too.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.