Stow: Neighbors fighting car dealership's expansion plans

9:02 AM, Sep 19, 2012   |    comments
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STOW, Ohio -- There's a bitter feud going on in a quiet Stow neighborhood.

Marhofer Auto Dealership wants to expand by buying homes and property on Thorndale Avenue. 

The company has already purchased, or has pending deals to buy three homes, which would add about an acre and a half of land for the dealership's renovations.

However, it needs city council to approve the rezoning of the land to allow for car sales.

Longtime neighbors in the area are putting up a fight, in an emotionally-charged feud with one of the city's most influential businesses.

"If anyone wants any emotion, come to me," said Terry May, who's lived in her home for 40 years. "I'm so fired up about it. It's not fair."

Neighbors don't want the old shady trees cut down, the added traffic from the dealership and more drivers testing cars in their neighborhood, which is right down the street from an elementary school.

"I just don't think [the drivers'] focus is on what it should be. It's not on the children," said May.

But renovating the nearly century-old business is considered by others to be crucial to keeping the dealership open. 

Four years ago, it survived an order to close by General Motors, after the city successfully lobbied GM to keep it open. Marhofer employs more than 80 workers at the Stow facility that's been open since 1919.

"The city needs to make a simple decision. They either want to keep the tax revenue or not," said neighbor Steve Mazziotta. 

Mazziotta is one of the homeowners with a pending deal to sell his home to Marhofer. While he wouldn't disclose details of the offer, he believes the alternative would be living next to an empty lot.

"If Marhofer isn't allowed to build, they will find other options, and they might not be in the city of Stow," he said.

Opponents say the rezoning issue came up earlier this year and the city council postponed the plans. They claim it's no coincidence that the issue returned shortly after owner Ron Marhofer's generous donation to the new football field at the high school.

"Money talks," said May.

The dealership is expected to submit its business plans to the planning commission in the near future. 

The city council has yet to vote on rezoning.

"I hope they do the right thing, the moral thing," said May.


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