Plaza Road Hearing Set For Jan. 24

A hearing to determine whether a 1999 court ruling requiring a developer to build a road connecting U.S. 40 to the Ohio Valley Plaza can be enforced more than 14 years later has been set for Jan. 24 in Belmont County Common Pleas Court.

On Nov. 20, counsel for the Belmont County commissioners filed a motion with the Belmont County Common Pleas Court asking the court to examine its 1999 ruling directing Lou Stein and Home Pro Enterprises to pay for the construction of a 300-foot connector road. The road would have extended from U.S. 40 to property owned by Stein near the Ohio Valley Plaza, and land possessed by the Stewart family. No development was ever started on the land, and construction of the road was never initiated by Stein.

Commissioners Mark Thomas, Matt Coffland and Ginny Favede were present Friday morning for a status conference in the case before Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato.

Belmont County is being represented in the case by Assistant Prosecutor David Liberati; the Stewart family, by attorney Connie Klema of Columbus; and Stein, by attorney Michelle Miller of Brilliant.

According to Thomas, Miller told the court Friday the 1999 court ruling gave Stein three years in which to build the road, and the plaintiff’s failure to bring the matter to court before now should bar any claims.

Fregiato set a hearing date in the case for 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 24, and attorneys involved must submit their briefs by Jan. 16.

“It makes no sense … for Lou Stein to build a road today to specs from 1999,” Thomas said. “We’re only talking about 300 feet. It doesn’t make any sense to have the road built, and make Lou Stein responsible for an agreement from 14 years ago. My suggestion is he pay monetary damages equal to the cost of building that road 14 years ago. If he is willing to do that – and we are using our County Engineer’s Office to determine a rough estimate what it would cost – the case is settled.”

Miller did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

“I’m glad to see things are proceeding,” Coffland said. “Maybe we can get down to clearing this up, and moving on to building the road.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation is asking Belmont County to transfer $1.9 million to start construction of the connector road that would begin near the All Fore One miniature golf course along U.S. 40, then extend south west of the Ohio Valley Plaza behind Sam’s Club and wind behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store. It would link up with a roadway and bridge over Interstate 70 to be constructed by ODOT.

The ODOT road then would join with one presently being constructed behind the Ohio Valley Mall by the Cafaro Co., owners of the mall. ODOT then intends to extend the new highway to Mall Road.