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Mall Owner Accused of Ignoring Pothole Complaints


UPDATED: Tuesday April 23, 2013 12:15 AM

A central Ohio shopping mall magnate stands accused of shirking his responsibilities and some say the result was a public safety hazard.

Herb Glimcher is the man behind a shopping mall empire.

The company he founded is today valued at $1.68 billion, and owns or manages dozens of malls and shopping centers across the country, including Polaris Fashion Place, Eastland Mall, and River Valley Mall in Lancaster.

One of the roads leading into River Valley Mall is River Way Drive, a street with a history of problems.

“I bet we would get upwards of 10 to 12 phone calls right off the bat in the morning," says Toby Shamblin, Superintendent of Lancaster’s Transportation Department.

He says the problem with River Way Drive is potholes-- big ones.

“To miss some of the holes you had to either go off to the berm or go into the oncoming traffic. So it was a huge safety concern," he says. "It was an extremely dangerous situation."

Public records obtained by 10tv show complaints from dozens of citizens.

They describe the potholes as "enormous," "ridiculous," and "destructive".

"I wouldn't even call it a pothole. That doesn't do it justice," says Jason Evans, one of the drivers who experienced just how destructive River Way Drive could be.

Britney Brumfield is another:

"I swerved to miss one pothole and hit the one that ended up popping my tire.”

So is Brian Benson:

"Thank God I had my belt on. My little girl had her belt on. We just lunge forward."

And Ron Edwards:

"It jerked the wheel on the car. If there had been cars coming the other way there would have been an accident."

Shamblin says, "As the owner of a roadway, it's your responsibility to maintain a safe roadway. That's the number one concern. And that's an issue we were very concerned with with River Way Drive."

Records provided by the city of Lancaster show River Way Drive is owned by Herb Glimcher, founder and retired CEO of Glimcher Realty Trust.

It's a fact of life in Ohio: potholes happen.

Cities and Departments of Transportation do the best they can to repair them as they pop up, and most drivers accept that.

But public records show the problems with River Way Drive-- and apparent lack of action from its owner-- go back years.

An email from Lancaster's Law Director dated September 8, 2011 says "we are contacting Herb Glimcher to bring this issue to the forefront".

Nine months later, in June of 2012, she writes to Glimcher's attorney: "this issue has been outstanding for well over a year".

And in January of this year, she writes Glimcher's attorney again: "We are now on Year 3 of this discussion without a resolution".

On January 28 of this year, Lancaster's Public Safety Director wrote, "This area has a history of being in poor condition. I want the Code Enforcement officer to determine if he should close the street due to safety violations".

On February 5th, Glimcher was cited with code violations, declaring his road "a public nuisance" and ordering him to remedy the situation within 10 days.

16 days later, Glimcher's attorney notified the city "the potholes have now been filled".

But not before leaving numerous drivers with blown-out tires, bent rims, and big repair bills.

"625 dollars’ worth, 650 dollars’ worth,” says Jason Evans. “…in these economic times, kind of rough."

"We had over an 850 dollar bill by the time it was done," says Linda Baker, Britney Brumfield’s mother. "It was a financial hardship to us."

"I'm a full time unemployed student,” says Brumfield, “so a popped tire and a bent rim is a significant amount of money."

These drivers and several others we spoke to say they've emailed and called Herb Glimcher's attorney seeking restitution.

Weeks, even months, later, all of them say they've gotten no response.

"Either his emails aren't working or his answering machine not working, or maybe a little arrogance involved,” says Ron Edwards.  “I don't know what it is. But they just totally ignored everything."

"You've got a public safety issue here,” says Brian Benson. “Where people are getting hurt or potentially could get hurt. A response would be nice."      

10tv also tried to get answers from Glimcher's attorney, but like everyone else, we never heard back.

Reached at his Bexley home, Glimcher refused comment to reporter Glenn McEntyre.   

"The city couldn't get away with operating a road like that,” says Toby Shamblin, “and I personally take a lot of pride in what I do, and I would not want my roadway to get to that point.”

The difference, these drivers say, is even city government ultimately answers to someone.

Wealthy developers apparently do not.

"How much does that take to man up and say, okay, we'll take care of that?" asks Ron Edwards. "Apparently that's not the way he is."

"It's like you're the little guy. We don't really care,” says Jason Evans. “And I wish it wasn't that way." 

So what does the law say about Glimcher's responsibility?

10TV spoke with two lawyers, who tell us the owner of a roadway has a duty to maintain it.

And if the owner had knowledge of the potholes before the damage was caused, that owner could be held liable.

But they say to see any money, the drivers would likely have to file suit in small claims court.

Stay with 10TV News and refresh 10TV.com for additional information.

 

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