AKRON, Ohio — Just over a month after the controversial White Pond development plan was narrowly approved by Akron City Council, a group of residents have teamed up with a non-profit organization to try to stop the deal in court.
LEAD for Pollinators, along with several homeowners who live near the 68-acre parcel of land around White Pond Dr. and Frank Blvd., have filed a lawsuit in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Akron City Council approved the $725,000 sale of the land to Triton Property Ventures for the White Pond residential and retail development on December 12 by a 7-6 vote. Triton plans to develop 29 acres of the land into approximately 98 ranch-style houses, 90 townhomes, 40-50 loft-style apartments and approximately 30,000 square feet of retail or commercial space.
The suit states that the city did not follow proper procedure in passing the ordinance. Specifically, the Mendenhall Law Group, representing the plaintiffs, say the council violated Akron Ordinance Section 34.27 that requires a two-thirds supermajority vote (9-4).
“Akron failed to determine the 68 acres was not needed for public use,” says Warner Mendenhall of Mendenhall Law Group in a release. “But the City also did not advertise the property for sale once a week for three consecutive weeks in the newspaper as Akron Ordinances demand. The way this sale was handled was outside the law, and therefore invalid.”
Court records show that on December 29, Mendenhall wrote a letter to Akron Law Director Eve Belfance, asking her to stop the sale. "After consideration of the legal opinion provided by outside counsel, and after further internal analysis, I have determined that injunctive action is not warranted in the present matter," she replied on January 5.
Opponents of the development have expressed concerns about potential environmental and wildlife impacts in the wooded area.
"LEAD for Pollinators and the SAVE WHITE POND neighbors do not support the housing development project on White Pond wetlands. This land on White Pond Dr. should remain in its natural state to continue to provide free ecological service to this neighborhood, and the greater Akron and Summit County community for its valuable contribution to community health, mosquito control, pest control, and flood control," LEAD for Pollinators wrote on its Facebook page after filing the suit.
Akron officials say they have addressed those concerns by reducing the total retail space from 60,000 square feet in its earlier plan, to 30,000 feet in its latest agreement with Triton. The two sides have also agreed that there will be no development in the wetlands area of the property.
The city says it anticipates "a considerable positive economic impact" for the area, including up to $8.8M to the Akron Public Schools and $200,000 to the Public Arts Council over the tax increment financing period. Additionally, Akron leaders estimate added income tax starting at approximately $102,000 each year and increasing as the site reaches full capacity.
Akron city leaders expect that work on the project would begin next year and expect it to be completed as early as 2026.
Editor's Note: 3News has reached out to the city of Akron for reaction to the lawsuit and will post any statements in this story.