Emergency response time to Copley Place, a senior citizens facility on Rothrock Road, was the major focus of testimony Monday in the legal battle between Copley Township and Fairlawn over the city’s closure of Rothrock Road.
Copley township officials are suing Fairlawn over its placement of barricades to restrict access to Rothrock Road after Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club announced plans to move the stores about a mile west from the city into the township.
The city maintains that Rothrock Road will become a major throughway once the new stores are built and the road was not built for heavy traffic. Fairlawn wants to limit access to the southern section of the road to just residents, emergency, city and school bus vehicles.
The proposed Walmart and Sam’s Club would be located in the northern portion of Rothrock Road on a 40-acre vacant lot.
There were 12 residents from Copley Place seated in the front row of the trial on Monday. The residents say they did not want to see the road closed and were there for moral support of the township.
Pat Laube, 85, who lives in Copley Place, testified that because the building has senior citizens it is more likely there would be more emergency vehicles and the closing could hamper transport to area hospitals.
“I understand why Fairlawn wants to protect its residents, but I don’t think any road should be permanently closed,” she said. “It will be more harm to more people to close the road than to leave it open.”
Laube, who has lived at the facility for the past four years, said she has seen its number of residents rise from 60 to 132. She said the average age in the complex is 80.
She said although she is against the Walmart move from the Rosemont Commons shopping center because there is already too much traffic in the area, she thinks it is likely it will still move.
Copley’s legal counsel, Irv Sugerman, questioned several witnesses to try to establish that the road closure discussions were limited to the Fairlawn administration and not open to township or other area officials.
Resident manager of Copley Place, Ken Cochrane, said he first learned of the road closure from Copley Place resident Laube, who expressed her concerns to management.
Fairlawn police Chief Kenneth Walsh and Fairlawn fire Chief Russell Hose both testified that they were not included in talks before a road closure plan was already set in place.
Hose said he did recommend water-weighted barriers instead of concrete ones because they can be easily moved or pushed out of the way by an emergency vehicle.
Copley Township Trustee Dale Panovich, who has been a township trustee since 1989, testified that property owners on Rothrock Road had requested the change that altered the zoning along Rothrock from residential to commercial.
She said there is a JEDD agreement with the city of Akron to provide sewer and water lines to the township properties. Akron would collect the income tax, but real estate taxes collected from the stores would go to Copley-Fairlawn schools.
Panovich said Copley has nothing to gain from the move.
“I have no position,” she said. “If they meet our zoning codes they are allowed to build there, if they don’t meet our codes they can’t build.”
Panovich said just as Fairlawn officials want to protect their residents by closing the road, her primary concern is for the health and safety of township residents, and keeping the road open is critical for that.
She disagrees with Fairlawn attorneys’ assertion that Rothrock Road is a secondary street, not a primary street. Copley fire Chief Michael Benson, who has publicly asked Fairlawn officials not to close the road, said the road closure targets Copley Place as well as Fairway Park apartments — a large complex of 600 residents with children — and both are health hazard targets.
He presented a list of various routes to and from Copley Place, saying the road closure would add an additional three minutes in response time. Fairlawn attorney Stephen Funk refuted the numbers, saying they were based on Google maps and not on any actual response times. Funk argued that last year Benson stated in a previous court hearing the response time was one minute shorter. He told Benson that today the response time was down two minutes. He emphasized that all the inquiries used Google maps, which he criticized as unreliable information.
Benson said any response time would depend on traffic patterns and the time of day and would have to take into account any improvements by the developer that the Summit County engineer is reviewing.
Sugerman asked every official which was the fastest, safest way to get to the Montrose area for emergency vehicles, with or without the road closure, and said the answer was Rothrock Road.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.