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Rothrock Road Trial Wraps Up, Judge Commends Lawyers for Passion

Summit County Common Please Judge Alison McCarty heard closing arguments Friday.

After a month and a half of trial, the Copley v. Fairlawn Rothrock Road closure trial has come to a close. Attorneys for Copley, Fairlawn and Jacob Pollock Friday afternoon in Judge Alison McCarty's courtroom.

To make it easy, we'll break apart the closing arguments by attorney. Here's what each one had to say:

Jordan Berns, representing Jacob Pollock

• "Closing Rothrock Road is illegal for two separate reasons: it's being conducted in bad faith and it is per say unreasonable because it's a principal highway and it connects two communties."

• "The first reason Fairlawn's plan is illegal is because it's being carried out in bad faith. It serves no legitimate governmental purpose. It's to protect the residential area. Preserving the residential area may be a legitimate interest in some situations, but a city can't simply invoke that like some kind of talisman."

• "Rothrock has shown it works as a bypass between Cleveland-Massillon Road and state Route 18. It takes traffic off Cleveland-Massillon and avoids the intersection of SR 18 and Cleveland-Massillon. That's important on a daily basis."

• "There is no question Rothrock Road is designed to carry a large number of cars. Eric Smith of URS testified that the estimated peak hour capacity was 3,200 cars per hour. And even AMATS found that 'no additional through lanes would be necessary to accommodate traffic from a new development.' And with regard to the current traffic on Rothrock they said 'Rothrock Road is currently well under design capacity.' There's no question Rothrock Road was designed and constructed to carry traffic far in excess of what it currently carries."

• "Despite what (Fairlawn Mayor William) Roth and (Rosemont Commons developer Herb) Newman said, it's apparent they are doing everything in their power to keep Walmart from moving. Those efforts are a part of a coordinated effort between the mayor's office and Stark and Newman (both owners of Rosemont Commons). It's clear that they met to talk about how to prevent the relocation."

• "The interests aren't overlapping, they're identical. Stopping Walmart is the goal and closing Rothrock is part of that plan: the plan to prevent them from moving."

Irv Sugerman, representing Copley Township

• "We didn't hear from one Rosemont Ridge resident. No one has come in to say 'we want this road blocked off or closed to protect our resdiential integrity.' There's probably a reason for that, and it's that that area is already protected by landscaping mounds."

• "The fact is it is undisputed that closing Rothrock will increase the traffic on Cleveland-Massillon Road. But no one is talking about the the fact that there are the same mounds on Cleveland-Massillon. It's a ridiculous argument."

• "I think we've heard from Roth and (Fairlawn) Chief Russ Hose that this is an evolving plan. That concerns me a whole lot because this is not a well thought out, non-tested plan. It's not analytical. That's what the point is. This trial is going to be over this afternoon and if you allow this barricade to go up, we don't even know what the plan is. It could change tomorrow."

• "Copley fire Chief Mike Benson said (blocking Rothrock) would endanger the health, safety and welfare of the residents beyond that barricade. He said if this plan is implemented, someone is going to die. It's not catastrophic, it's a fact."

• "(Fairlawn and Copley's police and fire chiefs) agreed there would be a delay in response times. Everyone said there was going to be a delay. The most disturbing part is the testimony I heard from the mayor was when I asked about a natural disaster on Rothrock. He said the emergency providers will 'just have to make do.'"

Stephen Funk, representing Fairlawn

• "The Ohio Supreme Court has held that municipalities have broad home rule authority over the roads in their jurisdiction. The Supreme Court made it clear that it is not the court's job to manage traffic or emergency services, or whether it's a bad idea to close a road. That type of policy is left to the municipality."

• "The plaintiffs here bear a very heavy burden of proof and they don't come close to satisfying that."

• "The evidence presented here overwhelmingly shows the mayor and council had good faith to advance the goal of promoting the tranquility of a residential area. This was a legitimate goal when we were here last fall and it continues to be today."

• "Jason Segedy of AMATS also said that that situation could get worse if there was more commercial on Rothrock. He said the most significant situation would be a full build-out because it would quadruple the traffic. The people here moved in expecting 3,000 cars a day, and it changing to 13,000 cars a day would be a significant change."

• "The plaintiffs say this area is not residential in character. The facts do support that it is. The facts are clear and self evident. If you look at this map, there is a clear line of demarcation: that it is grey to the north for commercial and as soon as you get past that, there is a noticeable change. As you drive south, there is a big change in the area. It's an almost a park-like setting. There are lakes, streams, woods. It's clearly residential."

• "The closing of Rothrock is not causing a negative traffic impact. It's evident because it's been closed since November and there is no evidence from anyone that it has caused an impact in this area, and AMATs found the same thing."

• "If you look at this area, the principal highway that connects Copley and Fairlawn is West Market Street. It's a seven-lane road. We've all heard it, Rothrock is a bypass. It's not the principal highway between Copley and Fairlawn. Rothrock is a collector, a local road."

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