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Akron residents continue to fight White Pond Reserve development, call for new council vote

Pond at proposed White Pond Reserve site
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
One of the ponds in the vacant wooded area off of White Pond Drive in Akron, pictured on Nov. 16, 2022.

Environmental activists and residents in Akron are calling for city council to redo the vote that cleared the way for White Pond Reserve, a controversial housing and retail development that will be built near an area of wetlands.

In December, Akron City Council approved the development by a vote of 7 to 6. After the meeting, concerned residents called attention to a 1990 city ordinance that states land sales need a supermajority to be approved, meaning at least nine councilmembers, unless the property was advertised for three weeks in a newspaper – which it wasn’t.

The city sought a second opinion from private attorneys, which affirmed that only a simple majority was needed due to a 2020 change.

Other lawyers disagree, said Michele Colopy, executive director of environmental group LEAD for Pollinators. They hired a legal team, which filed a complaint Jan. 23. The city has until Feb. 21 to respond, Colopy said.

“We’ve had too many differing opinions,” she said. “It’s a contradiction, and council actually should have fixed that a long time ago.”

In the meantime, she’s urging residents to contact their councilmembers and write letters to the editor in local media outlets.

“We will certainly be working to change hearts and minds,” Colopy said. “In the end, we need to have council redo the vote. Just because a few people on council say ‘ah, the vote is good’ – on paper, it is not.”

If the city does not immediately decide to take a new vote, LEAD will bring their legal challenge to court, where they’ll advocate for a redo, Colopy added.

The development, which will include hundreds of residential units as well as some retail spaces, will be built upon 65 acres in a wooded area on the city’s west side.

Residents have a myriad of concerns about theWhite Pond development. They packed city council meetings calling attention to wildlife habitats that would be disrupted due to the tree clearing, as well as concerns that it would increase traffic in an already busy area. Additionally, many people who live near the green space said they enjoy walking their dogs and birdwatching on the land and had hoped it could be preserved.

City officials, however, said the development was needed to help meet the need for housing in the city. Final plans from the developer showed there would be no construction on the wetlands themselves.

About 45 people attended a meeting at the Northwest Akron library branch Wednesday night, where Colopy and other advocates updated residents on the legal challenge. They also provided education on wetlands, and why they are so important to the environment.

The goal, Colopy said, is to better prepare Akronites to fight against any future developments proposed on wetlands.

“It is not a place to build. It just is not. They’re going to doom that whole project by building it on wetlands,” she said.

Developments on wetlands bring flooding and environmental concerns to surrounding neighborhoods, Colopy added.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.