It's a question years in the making: where should the new Kent courthouse go?
County officials have agreed the Kent Municipal Court will stay in Kent. Now they face the task of finding a suitable — and affordable — location for the new building, which the latest plans show at 25,000 square feet with 135 parking spaces.
County judges, commissioners and other administrators have already considered at least 10 different possible locations:
- The Davey Drill property at the corner of Mogadore Road and Summit Street
- The block between South DePeyster, Day, Summit and South Water streets
- On East College Street southeast of Haymaker Parkway and South DePeyster Street
- The former Tops grocery building on South Water Street
- At 800 Mogadore Road, the former RB&W site
- The existing downtown location or the county-owned property adjacent to it on West College Street
- Property on Lake Street owned by Ametek, which is moving into the downtown redevelopment project
- The former Campus Inn Apartments site at 303 E. Main St.
- Vacant land southwest of the intersection of S.R. 43 and S.R. 261
- Land near the southwest corner of Haymaker Parkway and Middlebury Road
Add one more possible site to the list.
Portage County Municipal Court Judge Kevin Poland has twice in public suggested the land north of the Kent branch of Portage Community Bank at 1532 S. Water St. Poland's first mention of the property came at a joint meeting between Portage County Commissioners and Kent officials. He pointed to the bank land again at a public forum on the topic held at Maplewood Career Center earlier this month.
"It has the advantage of little prep costs," Poland said. "It has the advantage of certainly there are utilities readily available."
And Poland said it comes at a savings compared with the site at 303 E. Main St., which has a reported price tag of $980,000. He said the county may be able to buy close to three acres owned by the bank for $570,000.
Poland disclosed the fact his family trust owns stock in the bank, and his brother-in-law, Kevin Lewis, is the bank's president.
Lewis said the new courthouse would not negatively affect its existing Kent branch if the county wanted to build next door.
"We’re not selling the branch, we’re not selling the office there,” Lewis said.
The bank owns a total of about five acres that were once part of three parcels it bought to build the Kent branch in 2006. About three acres north of the bank is available. One of the original houses remains, and the bank uses it for a few mortgage staffers, but that would not present any kind of roadblock if the county is interested in the property, Lewis said.
"We knew long ago when we bought all three (parcels) that if the right opportunity came along for us to sell the property we’re not using, we would be open to do that," Lewis said. "We’ve talked about it internally that if the county wanted to put a courthouse there, that would be a good business fit for our bank next door."
Lewis said the bank is not actively pursuing selling the land, and they haven't had formal discussions with county officials about the idea. But it's an option nonetheless.
As for the $570,000 price tag Poland suggested, Lewis said that's about what the bank paid for the two northern parcels. The property would have to be appraised to determine a sale price.
"From our perspective, we’d like to get out of it what we’ve got in it," he said.
Dr. Aaron Moats, chairman of the board for Portage Community Bank, said any decision to sell the property would have to be approved by the bank's board of directors.
"If somebody wanted to buy property from us, it would be a decision that would have to come before the board," Moats said. "There’s property there, and it certainly might be something that might be entertained."