Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said last night he will break a city council tie vote and allow the former Plaskon Products site to be turned into a shopping center where a Wal-Mart is likely.
City council's vote on a zoning change that would convert the 50-acre site on Glendale Avenue, between South Detroit Avenue and Byrne Road, from industrial to commercial ended in a tie yesterday.
By city law, the mayor breaks all tied council votes. Mayor Finkbeiner, reached last night in Columbus, said: “I would not be here tonight but for the fact that I can be at the next council meeting to cast my vote in favor of the project.” He has two weeks to break the tie.
The zoning change has been the subject of public debate for months, and divided local labor unions and council. Local 911 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union lobbied against the change because Wal-Mart, a likely tenant at the site, operates nonunion stores.
Building trade unions, however, fought for the change because of the expected $40 million in construction work the center is to generate.
The council members voting against the zone change were Pete Gerken, Louis Escobar, Tina Skeldon Wozniak, Art Jones, Wade Kapszukiewicz, and Peter Ujvagi. Those voting in favor were Wilma Brown, Betty Shultz, Gene Zmuda, Edna Brown, Rob Ludeman, and Bob McCloskey.
Mr. Ludeman, in whose district the site is located, fought hard for the development. “All in all I'm pleased, and we look forward to working with the Medical College [of Ohio] and with the neighbors and the developer as the site plan comes forward and making it a successful development,” he said.
Mr. Ludeman said because Toledo is a strong union town, it was possible Local 911 could make strides with a Wal-Mart. He said council in the past has aided in unionization efforts by calling for management to not interfere with union votes.
Councilman Gerken, who strongly opposed the zoning change, said aside from the union issue, he believes council needed to consider the long-range impact of another retail development in the city.
Mrs. Wozniak said she would have rather seen the site used for nonretail commercial development, such as a professional park or technology center.
Kevin Woodman, director of development for Cedarwood Development, Inc., of Akron, the company in charge of the project, said he believes council's vote properly reflected the potential use of the land as commercial, not the potential user.
He said many tenants are interested in the development but did not deny Wal-Mart is a leader.
Donato Iorio, the attorney for Local 911, said his group would continue to fight the Wal-Mart.
“We need to be clear here. [The vote] is one step in a very long process. Local 911 is not going to sit idly by while Wal-Mart invades the market, flooding the retail market with substandard wages and poor benefit packages. We're going to do whatever we need to do to protect our jobs - good-paying, middle-class jobs,” Mr. Iorio said.
He said Local 911 will lobby the mayor to vote against the project.
Mr. Iorio said he hoped the mayor would stand by his earlier comments regarding “big box” development, when Mr. Finkbeiner said he did not think the city needed more large retail stores. “He's clearly flip-flopped, so maybe we can flip him back,” Mr. Iorio said.
The mayor was speaking in the context of a proposed development on Alexis Road, where he was against a zoning change for a new home improvement center.
In other action, council voted to override a mayoral veto of the Alexis zoning change.
Council voted 10-2 two weeks ago to approve a zoning change for acreage along Alexis near Lewis Avenue to allow for the construction of a Lowe's home improvement center. The mayor, who opposed the development, vetoed the action.
The override also was a 10-2 vote, with Mr. Escobar and Mr. Kapszukiewicz voting against it.
Rodney Henning of Shoreham Lane, one of many area residents opposed to the development, said neighbors would begin a petition drive today to try to get the measure on the November ballot. The group needs to collect 11,006 valid signatures.