City officials were in a big rush to approve a rezoning for Home Depot, but two citizens have managed to slow the process down. Home Depot applied to rezone land from residential to commercial in the Westgate area of Toledo to build a 130,000 square foot store. To make room for Home Depot, the company had to buy a portion of the Hampshire Heights apartments, and propose the razing of 88 apartments in nine buildings, with other residential homes just to the east of the project. Marie Sienkowski and Peggy Daly-Masternak filed suit against the City when it violated state law that required the Planning Commission and the City Council to each consider the plan for at least 30 days. Neither board took the necessary time to examine the projecct, and proper notice of public hearings were also violated. In mid March Pleas Court Judge James Bates cited with the citizens, ruling that the city rezoned the land in a “potentially unlawful manner”. “As large and significant as this project is,” the Judge said, “I don’t know why they rushed to judgement so quickly.” This is not the first time Home Depot has faced embarrassment in Toledo. Their first store has been publicly chastized for its unkempt appearance, with piles of garden supplies, palettes and storage sheds piled high over the store’s fenced perimeter. “We’re very unhappy about the (Home Depot) Airport store in every way, shape and form,” said one City Councilor. “We’re embarrassed,” admitted Home Depot’s real estate manager, “and we’ll take care of our problems…”. The ire of local residents at their second location, however, may not be as simple as cleaning up the parking lot. Sienkowski, who brought the lawsuit, says residents want to make sure that commercial sprawl does not “ooze over” into residential areas. “Home Depot always think they should get exactly what they want,” Daly-Masternak adds. “If they go ahead and ignore a suit and build the store, and a decision comes down in our favor, they could be forced to tear the store down.” In the meantime, Home Depot says it has spent more than $1 million to demolish buildings where they want to build. Most of the apartments Home Depot plans to raze are rented by students and the elderly. City Officials, in their legal brief, suggested that if Daly-Masternak did not like the “inevitable changes” being made to her neighborhood, “she could sell her property and move to a neighborhood more to her liking”. Daly-Masternak replied: “Toledo residents had better understand that if the city means to ramrod anything into your neighborhood–anything–no home is sacred, no sense of community is held dear, no neighbor is indispensible, no family’s efforts and investment count. If you don’t like what the city shoves down your throat, you can just get the hell out.”
To find out how you can help the Westgate Neighbors pursue their lawsuit against the City and Home Depot, email Peggy Daly-Masternak at: [email protected]. Also, you can suggest that Home Depot leave West Toledo alone by emailing the company at: [email protected].