Plans to put a shopping plaza on Richland’s former elementary school land were likely dealt a lethal blow Monday.
Despite an Ohio developer’s new pitch aimed at calming residents’ concerns about the Shoppes at Theatre Square plan, school board members sat silent afterward while a motion to work toward a final deal was on the table.
It then died without a single vote of support.
It was a win for a group of residents who have been fighting the idea of a $2.1 million land sale for the past few weeks, arguing the land was too valuable and that a plaza would create safety concerns.
“To me, I think this means it’s a dead issue,” board member Scott Mulhollen said after the meeting, adding that the plaza’s proximity to the current elementary school was the biggest deal-breaker in his eyes.
“You can’t replace that land once it’s gone,” added board member Harry Graham, who agreed the board would likely now move on from trying to field offers for the land.
The district took that step in February as it looked for potential revenue opportunities.
Akron-based Levey & Co. was the lone bidder. Offering $2.1 million, it announced plans to put a shopping plaza with several department store anchors on the site.
But several issues quickly cropped up.
Residents like Sean O’Dowd, who told the board Monday they should have gotten the land appraised before seeking bids, maintained the site was worth more.
While Solicitor Myron Markovitz disagreed, saying the board’s three-month bid invitation revealed the site’s current value, several board members disagreed nonetheless. Member Tim Warshel said he thought the land was worth nearly three times the offer tendered.
Residents also were concerned about safety and traffic. Some worried that criminals would roam the plaza and could prey on children at the current school, which would have been just yards away from the proposed site.
Levey & Co. Vice President Kevin Fallon showed board members new plans that directed traffic from the plaza to less congested areas.
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