If Walmart and Sam's Club leave Fairlawn for Copley Township, new businesses may not be able to move into the buildings they leave behind.
Fairlawn Mayor Bill Roth says Walmart and Sam's Club still have several years left on their leases. Those leases do not include provisions requiring Walmart to have an open business in the buildings.
"We could run into a scenario where if Walmart did, in fact, move, they could still pay rent on the empty stores and force them to remain empty for a five-year period," Roth said.
Both stores are expected to move to new locations on Rothrock Rd. in Copley Township, but the move has been the target of litigation. Fairlawn built a barricade across Rothrock Rd. at city limits, saying it wanted to protect the residential neighborhoods in the area against an expected increase in traffic. But Copley Township sued, arguing the closure of the road would negatively impact emergency response time. Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison McCarty ruled in June that the barricades are legal.
Roth said he understands that competition could lead Walmart to keep the buildings vacant until the lease runs out, but said it "obviously it hurts a community when they do that."
A Walmart spokeswoman said the company can't comment on its timeline for Fairlawn or Copley Township because of pending litigation surrounding the closure of Rothrock Rd.