FAIRLAWN, Ohio - Rothrock Road at Sawgrass Drive in Fairlawn will be blocked by a concrete barrier beginning April 10, and Copley Township officials said the decision is putting many of its residents at risk.
During a contentious meeting Wednesday morning at Fairlawn City Hall, deputy director Ernie Staten said drivers will be alerted to the closure through message displays beginning March 22.
"This will be a total road closure and no opportunity to pass by," Staten said.
Several Copley Township leaders, including the police chief, fire chief and law director voiced strong opposition to the plan.
"Please, I ask you, don't do it. Please, don't do it," urged Copley Fire Chief Michael Benson.
Benson said blocking Rothrock Road will force emergency vehicles to drive through a Fairlawn subdivision on Rosemont Boulevard and increase response times by at least one minute to Copley residents who need help.
"It's already a long enough response to try to get up to this corner of the township, and to add time to that response is an unnecessary risk," Benson said.
"You're going to be putting over 1,000 people at risk...by putting up this ill-conceived and vindictive barricade," said Copley Township law director Irv Sugerman.
Currently, a barricade blocks Rosemont Boulevard at Rothrock Road. The barrier will be moved to Rothrock and Sawgrass on April 10. Gates, only accessible to emergency vehicles and school buses, will eventually be placed at Rosemont and Rothrock, according to Fairlawn Mayor William Roth.
The blockades are a reaction to a proposal to move a Walmart store and a Sam's Club store from Rosemont Commons in Fairlawn to an undeveloped section of land on Rothrock in Copley Township.
Roth said a big box store on a two-lane residential connector street is not a good idea.
"We do want to reduce the potential of traffic in that area. Rothrock was never designed to be a West Market Street," Roth said.
Fairlawn resident Tom Lorini said he support the barricades. He was worried about heavy Walmart traffic. "People would be cutting through to go over to Walmart, which would bring up traffic. It would just be almost a nuisance," Lorini said.
Some Copley Township officials have suggested that Fairlawn is erecting barricades out of sour grapes and attempting to keep Walmart form moving.
But Roth said Walmart's income taxes are "less than 5 percent of our total tax revenue" and the barriers are about public safety, not a reaction to a concern over cash.
"This is not sour grapes. This is a matter of protecting 10 percent of our housing stock in the city," Roth said.
Meanwhile, a trial date is scheduled for April 30 in Summit County Common Pleas Court. Copley Township sued Fairlawn over the road closure. Two Fairlawn residents have also sued, seeking to have Rothrock Road reopened.