Fairlawn Mayor Bill Roth testified for six hours Wednesday, repeating the city’s contention that closing a portion of Rothrock Road to through traffic will help preserve the integrity and character of the neighborhood.
“I’m protecting the entire area from big-box retail for both Copley and Fairlawn,” said Roth, the mayor for 17 years.
He was the only witness on the 11th day of the civil trial in which Copley Township, along with a Fairlawn resident, have sued the city to keep the road open.
Walmart and Sam’s Club want to relocate from Fairlawn to 40 acres of vacant land on Rothrock Road in the township.
Closing arguments are set for Friday afternoon before Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty, who is hearing the nonjury case.
Roth said housing in the target area includes seven homes on Rothrock Road (four in Fairlawn), 168 homes in Rosemont Ridge, Copley Place with 132 residents, Fairway Park with 600 residents, the Enclave with 104 units and Rothrock Place with 12 homes.
The city wants to permanently close Rothrock Road from through traffic just west of Sawgrass Drive. Water barriers that could easily be removed in case of an emergency would serve as the barrier, as well as a gate system on Rosemont Boulevard.
In their suit, Copley Township and Fairlawn resident Jacob Pollock of Bunker Drive, off Smith Road, accuse the mayor of closing Rothrock Road in bad faith and as part of a conspiracy with the current developer/owners of Rosemont Commons, where Walmart and Sam’s Club currently are located.
Roth said Wednesday, however, that Walmart has made it clear it wants to expand and would not remain in Fairlawn — and that he is OK with that. He said the city is opposed to any big-box stores moving on the northern end of Rothrock Road because of the potential high volume of traffic on a two-lane road.
He said the communities in the Montrose area collaborated to widen West Market Street (and Medina Road) to keep big-box stores and the majority of commercial development near state Route 18. He said there are four access roads to Rothrock Road on its northern end.
Copley attorneys criticized the mayor for repeatedly changing plans for the road closing, including since the trial began in June. He also was accused of not getting enough input from the city’s police chief or other experts and ignoring traffic studies indicating closing Rothrock Road would be a bad idea.
Roth said he is in constant communication with his department heads and has met with various residents and members of the business community over the issue.
“We looked at the big picture and weighed all the pros and cons before making any decision,” he said.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.