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City requires action on Wendy's structure

Dave Matthews

The giant blue tarp wrapped around the former uptown Wendy's for the past two years may soon be coming down.

According to court documents filed with the Butler County Court of Common Pleas Oct. 2, Judge Andrew Nastoff denied a motion for preliminary injunction relief filed by Main and High Development, the owners of the former fast food restaurant.

And as Oxford Mayor Jerome Conley explained to Associated Student Government (ASG) Tuesday evening, this means the city of Oxford can "proceed with the injunction" to demolish what Conley calls a "blighted building."

"It's been in disrepair for two years; it's an eyesore for us all," Conley said.

The city injunction now requires Main and High Development to act within 24 months-to either demolish or repair the former fast food restaurant.

Main and High Development is a limited liability company comprised of Christopher Rodbro and Bernard Rumpke.

This draws to a close a part of litigation that has been ongoing since August 2006, when Main and High filed suit against the city of Oxford, Oxford City Council and former City Manager Jane Howington. According to court documents, Main and High accused the "city of Oxford and Oxford City Council of civil rights violations, violating the city's municipal charter and violations of R.C. 12.22, Ohio's Sunshine Law."

The Wendy's structure, on the corner of High and Main streets, originally was damaged by a fire in August 2005. Main and High Development planned to split the two-lot location into four lots, erecting apartments above a commercial space. Yet the city of Oxford's statutory code at the time did not contain procedures or regulations regarding lot splits-causing an emergency city council meeting to be called and eventually passing legislation requiring lots to be a minimum of 3,000 square feet.

Under their plans, Main and High's lots would have been 2,100 square feet.

Following Conley's discussion Tuesday evening, ASG unanimously approved a resolution to send a letter on behalf of all Miami University students to Matthew and Chris Rodbro-mangers of the property and of Red Brick, Inc. Property Management-to "expedite the demolition and subsequent redevelopment of the property."

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ASG's Secretary for Off-Campus Affairs Jen House said that the judge's ruling and actions by ASG are "a step in the right direction" toward redevelopment. House also added that Conley's announcement showed an uncommon partnership between city council and Miami students.

"This shows students are on the same page as the city (of Oxford), which usually isn't the case, but it is here (with Wendy's)," House said.

Off-campus senator Mike Scott, who co-wrote the bill one week before Conley's announcement, agrees with House that Tuesday's events will be influential in speeding up the transformation at 2 S. Main St.

Scott added that the best-case scenario for the letter, which was the first bill of the year to be written only by senators, is to make some sort of progress with the development of Wendy's.

"Obviously you're excited to hear (of the judge's ruling) he said. "The fact that the courts stepped in is just another tool we have in our pocket. Basically, we're telling Mr. Rodbro, tear that tarp down."

Conley is also confident that no matter what change is taken, the effects will be positive, pointing to the overhauling of Stewart Square and the old Hallmark building uptown.

Regardless of what action is taken, both Conley and ASG are pushing to make that action soon.

"There's not a single student in this room or their constituencies who say 'yes' to the blighted Wendy's building," said ASG's President Pro-Tempore Douglas Haynes.

Matt Rodbro responded to the judge's ruling and ASG's letter by saying that they are currently in the process of renovating the building, and are talking to a number of undisclosed national franchises to occupy the property at this time. He said no demolition would take place at the location-only a remodeling.

Matt Rodbro also questioned if ASG has their facts straight.

"I don't think student government has been given factual information," he said. "It's important to understand what's being done with the building."

Scott said that in the process of writing the bill he and co-writer, sophomore Andrew Ferguson, met not only with faculty advisers but officials at the city of Oxford to gather accurate information.

He also said he would be willing to sit down and talk with Matt Rodbro on behalf of Miami students about any inaccuracies in their perception of the Wendy's building.

Additional reporting contributed by Stacey Skotzko.