TransPortage gets $15,000 Loan to Relocate Wells-Sherman House
Support, opposition voiced by crowd at Kent City Council meeting
One of several dominoes that needs to fall to save the historic Kent Wells-Sherman House did just that Wednesday night at Kent City Council.
There are still a few more blocks to fall.
Council voted Wednesday to finalize a vote taken earlier this month to loan $15,000 to the non-profit group TransPortage to relocate the house from 250 E. Erie St. to a plot of greenspace on North Water Street between Scribbles Coffee and Standing Rock Cultural Arts.
Kent State University has also promised to lend $40,000 to the effort to relocate the house. The house stands in the path of Kent State's Esplanade extension and must be moved this summer so construction can start.
Yet TransPortage still has to buy the land — a purchase agreement is in place — and get a line of credit to cover the other expenses associated with moving, renovating and bringing the house up to code. A copy of their estimated expenses is attached to this story.
And, perhaps more importantly, the Kent Planning Commission and Kent Board of Zoning Appeals have yet to vote on the site plan for the house as it would sit on the lot. They are expected to review the site plans in July, but the planning commission did hear a cursory presentation last month.
But none of those issues really seemed to be at the forefront Wednesday. Instead, it was the more controversial issue of the potential loss of the green space that Standing Rock has used for more than 20 years that people were talking about at the meeting.
About a dozen people on both sides of the greenspace issue spoke to council to air their concerns over the site TransPortage has said was one of about 12 locations considered for the house.
Jill Twark, a member of TransPortage, said they are hopeful to work with members of Standing Rock to use the space "to provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people" after the house is relocated there.
"This piece of land on North Water Street turned out to be … the best site for it, as disappointing as that may be to some people," she said.
Josh Goran, who said he has friends on both sides of the issue, leaned towards preserving the greenspace and finding another spot for the Wells-Sherman House.
"While I understand the value of historical architecture and preservation thereof, I believe preervation of the greenspace ... is a more needed concern," he said.
Kent architect Doug Fuller tried to be the voice of reason while supporting the relocation of the house to the lot.
"If there’s ever an opportunity that’s been crying out for a little cooperation between people, it’s this one," Fuller said. "This house is not a big house. There’s a tremendous amount of the site that’s left that with cooperation can be (used) together. The building will be an asset to North Water Street and it can be an asset to other people wanting to use it."
Council voted 6-2 to support lending the $15,000 to TransPortage. Councilmen John Kuhar and Wayne Wilson cast the two opposing votes with councilman Garret Ferrara absent Wednesday.
Kuhar said he voted against lending the financial support because the initial presentation to council about saving the house asked only for administrative support from city staff members.
"Now it’s turned into financial support," he said.
Like Fuller, Councilman Robin Turner urged the two groups, TransPortage and Standing Rock Cultural Arts, to find a middle ground.
"It is a situation where we’re under the gun right now," Turner said. "The hope is that the two groups right now can work together to see if we can make a benefit out of this for everyone concerned."