CAED building construction hindrance to neighbors

Emma Keating

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Come rain or shine, landlord Chris Myers walks the Esplanade, talking to pedestrians about “the innocent 25,” a group of tenants he aims to defend.

Myers, who has owned houses in Kent since 1975, rents a 15-bedroom home behind the new Center for Architecture and Environmental Design building.

Myers said that during the construction of CAED, excessive amounts of unkept dust flew across the street, toward his rental house.

“My tenants couldn’t open their windows,” Myers said. “They couldn’t sit on their front porch. There was so much dust.”

In May, Kent State and Gilbane Building Company were issued a notice of violation of the Ohio Administrative Code 3745-17-08, which restricts the emission of fugitive dust, by the Akron Regional Air Quality Management District.

Myers, a Kent State alumnus himself, said he will sue Kent State for violating the Ohio Administrative Code.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, fugitive dust is a natural or man-made particulate that becomes airborne due to the forces of wind or man.

Stephanie Phillips, a junior human development and family studies major and current resident of Myers’ house, said she noticed the dust when she moved in.

“When I came here for the first time, I did notice how dirty it was,” Phillips said. “I started to spray cleaner on the walls, but (Myers) was like ‘no no no, don’t do that.’ They were illegally excavating and blowing dirt on the house and I’m going to be protesting it.’”

While the university and building company responded to the citation by watering down the streets in order to keep the dust at bay, Myers said he will still fight.

“If someone was embezzling money and got caught, you wouldn’t just let them go after they give the money back,” Myers said. “They’re still punished for it.”

Randy Davis, a senior chemistry major, came across Myers during a protest and spoke with him about his agenda.

“Chris definitely brings up some interesting points,” Davis said. “It’s not what’s right or wrong. It’s more along the lines of we should be more open about questioning these things, in general, and maybe how can we move forward and benefit people from this.”

Thomas Euclide, associate vice president of facilities planning and operations, said that Kent State wants to facilitate a conversation with Myers.

“We’ve tried very hard during the construction process to be good neighbors with him and his tenants,” Euclide said. “Letting them know when things are happening and what’s happening with the construction.”

Euclide said that he also wants to find ways to move past this and continue a healthy relationship with Kent State neighbors.

“We’re anxious to get this behind us,” Euclide said.

Kelvin Berry, director of economic development and community relations at Kent State, has been working with Euclide to meet with Myers.

“He’s not only our neighbor,” Berry said. “He’s also a landlord for our students. That’s very important to us.”

Berry said that multiple offers to discuss Myers’ wishes with him have been denied.

“He wants to protest, but he doesn’t really want to tell us what he wants from the university,” Berry said.

According to Berry, Kent State will continue to try and open a discussion with Myers to talk about next steps.

“(There are) some folks I’ve met in life that I just don’t understand,” Berry said. “If he really wants to get something done in terms of a relationship with the university, we’ve opened that up to sit down and talk because that’s how it starts.”

Myers said he will hold firm in his protest and not meet with Kent State.

“I have nothing to say to you,” Myers said, referencing the university administration. “You have nothing to say to me.”

Myers said he sees his tenants as more than just residents – they are his family.

“I don’t have any grandchildren,” Myers said. “My tenants are my grandchildren. I take gas to them in the middle of the night if they run out. That’s what I do. I love them.”

Knowing that his tenants were affected by the excessive amounts of dust has plagued Myers since the construction began, he said.

“I can’t let it go,” Myers said. “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a year. I wake up every morning thinking about this and thinking about my tenants and the dust blowing at them.”

Emma Keating is the arts and sciences reporter, contact her at [email protected]