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Deadline for Moving Kent Wells Sherman House Extended

Portage magistrate denies request for preliminary injunction to stop relocation of house to North Water Street lot

Today's deadline threatening demolition of the Kent Wells Sherman House if it was not moved from land owned by Kent State University appears flexible after all.

News came Friday that a Portage County magistrate had denied a request from a group of Kent residents looking to stop the relocation of the historic house to a vacant lot at 247 N. Water St.

The house, which had to be moved for construction of Kent State's Esplanade extension, was temporary relocated to a small parcel of university land at the western end of East College Avenue in August.

Both university and city officials said the house had to be moved from that locale by today or it would be demolished so it did not interfere with city plow trucks that use that dead-end portion of East College Avenue to turn around during winter storms.

But Kent State spokesperson Emily Vincent said university officials were awaiting the magistrate's decision and the final outcome of the court case before moving forward with demolition.

"Right now we didn’t have plans to demolish the house on Dec. 1," Vincent said Friday.

Court makes partial ruling

The court case started in October when Kent residents behind the group Save the Standing Rock Garden filed an appeal to the September Kent Planning Commission decision that allowed moving the house to the North Water Street site, which had been used by the neighboring non-profit Standing Rock Cultural Arts for about 20 years as a rehearsal and demonstration space.

The group, which is not directly affiliated with Standing Rock Cultural Arts, argued that the Kent Architectural Review Board violated Ohio Sunshine Laws by not properly advertising a meeting that addressed the issue. They further claimed the planning commission's decision should be overturned because, in part, comments from residents who opposed the move were not properly considered in the decision and the approval partially relied on a recommendation from the architecture board.

On those grounds, the group's attorney, John Plough, asked the court for an  injunction that would prohibit Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., the group trying to relocate the house, from doing any site work at the North Water Street lot and physically moving the house there.

Portage County magistrate Kent Graham's ruling this week denied a preliminary injunction request to stop placement of the house on the lot, which is owned by the KWSH group.

"The motion for a preliminary injunction ... prohibiting (Kent) Wells Sherman House, Inc., from disturbing or removing trees, plants, and soils, making any excavation, and placing structures or equipment on its property located at 247 N. Water St. ... is denied," the magistrate's ruling reads in part.

However, that may not be the final decision.

Kent Assistant Law Director Eric Fink said the magistrate's order does address the injunction request, but it reserves ruling on whether or not the architectural review board and the planning commission violated Ohio law and, if they did, should a remedy void the site plan and essentially force the Kent Wells Sherman House group to submit a new site plan and start the process for moving the house over from scratch.

"The way the magistrate wrote it, it’s subject to some interpretation," he said.

Fink said Graham told attorneys on the record that his initial ruling on the injunction prohibits actual construction of a foundation on the site until a final ruling on the actions of the two citizen boards is determined.

"He said that on the record to us, but it was not contained in the written order," Fink said. "And of course the written order trumps anything said in court."

Fink said the magistrate's office indicated the final ruling would be issued next week.

But members of the Kent Wells Sherman House group see this week's ruling on the injunction as an overall victory in the case.

Roger Thurman, vice president of the Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. board, said they interpret the ruling on the injunction to mean the magistrate is unlikely to find the two citizen boards improperly ruled on the issue and as a result vacate the site plan.

Thus, they can start building the foundation and make final plans for moving the house, he said.

"It's over," Thurman said. "If the magistrate thought the planning commission and the architecture board didn’t follow Ohio laws, then he wouldn’t have released the injunction. Technically yeah, something could happen. But I think it’s unlikely."

Lisa Regula Meyer, who organized the Save the Standing Rock Garden and is the first plaintiff named in the appeal case, said they believe if the magistrate determines that either citizen board decision should be nullified then that could potentially stop the relocation.

"The removal of the temporary restraining order isn't the only thing that matters," she said.

Timeline for move unclear

Kent State officials may not be immediately planning to demolish the house, but how long of a stay of execution the university will grant it is unclear.

"It is our hope that we can move forward with the transaction and relocation of the house," Vincent said. "Details still need to be worked out."

The Kent Wells Sherman House group also needs a final permit from the city to build the foundation on the North Water Street lot for the house, and that permit remains in the technical review process.

Bridget Susel, director of the Kent Community Development Department, said the city is waiting to hear back from the group's architect on corrections to the first set of building plans that were reviewed Nov. 5.

"There were some technical deficiencies in terms of what needed to be referenced back to the building code," she said. "They have not resubmitted plans for a second review to address the items found in the first plan review."

And the group also would have to obtain the necessary approvals to move the house in the public right of way and address any obstacles to the physical move — such as traffic lights — from where it sits on East College Avenue to the North Water Street site.

Add to all that red tape the fact that winter weather could slow any site construction and seeing the house move before January appears unlikely.

Though Thurman is optimistic that, pending the magistrate's final ruling and obtaining all the necessary permits, the house could be relocated by the first of the year.

"We need to do that because we have a tenant waiting to move in there," he said. "I’m optimistic, but I was optimistic before."

Misty Jones December 01, 2012 at 07:32 PM
So let me get this straight. Fink not only argues that the city of Kent is above state law for sunshine law but also that they can completely disrespect the magistrate. Wow, city, congrats on great legal representation. Now the whole city can read how dirty the law department's been. Is this anything like Fink's other interpretations or when he was disciplined for interpreting that certified mail about a justice case was something he could just disregard because he "didn't realize the gravity of the matter"? Look it up. This ruling came on 11/26 not Fri. It did not deny the injunction. It approved KWSH's motion and denied City of Kent's motion. That's why it says "the "Defendant The Wells-Sherman House, Inc." when there were multiple defendants on the docket that are still pending including the city that issues permits and approved the necessary site plan. Wake up, Fink! And is Thurman really so ignorant of law as to not realize that he can do with his land what he wants by city law? Except move a house that required a site plan approval that is pending in the Portage County courts.
David Badagnani December 01, 2012 at 08:35 PM
*temporary relocated => temporarily relocated
David Badagnani December 01, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Standing Rock Cultural Arts and other members of the community used the Standing Rock Garden space for much more than "rehearsals" and "demonstrations."
David Badagnani December 01, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Why does this article yet again fail to mention another of the most important points of the appeal: that the City of Kent's own regulations prevent a plan that has been turned down by the Kent Planning Commission from being presented again to the Planning Commission before 1 year has passed. I pointed this out the last time Kent Patch failed to mention this but now another article has appeared that does not mention it.
KentWomanOnMission December 02, 2012 at 05:52 PM
of course the reality is that there is overwhelming support to relocate the house next to Standing Rock and the transition there is imminent. These people who are against it are a small yet loud group but represent a clear minority. Most residents look forward to this house being situated on the lot. This is a win for the city, property owners and most importantly a win for justice and the democratic process
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! December 02, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I personally know no one who is for the move of the house to it's "new" location. Guess it just depends on what social circles you run in.
KentWomanOnMission December 02, 2012 at 08:13 PM
trust me there is lots of support. the University supports the move and so does the city of Kent; that's why this entire project is moving forward. This is part of a long term vision for Kent not the short term crying from the neighbors who not only rent the building they occupy but don't own nor rent the lot next door. this is over for the squatters and this is being won by landowners and the ruling class. This is a done deal and justice has prevailed over wishful ignorance.
Traci Monroe December 02, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I'm not sure putting a house there is part of Kent's long term vision, depending on how well all the new development does I believe we will see something like that on that side of Main in the future. I'm also not sure if the support is for the house or against the fact that the SRCA was trying to dictate what the original owner should do with the property.
Jim Williams December 03, 2012 at 12:31 PM
The hyperbole from both sides in this argument is just embarrassing. Whatever happened to civil discourse, or agreeable disagreement, folks?
Misty Jones December 04, 2012 at 02:42 AM
It's all right, Jim. The "ruling class" will just have us low ignorant folk hanged at the galleys or pillaried or stoned to death or will just let us eat cake or some other foolish nonsense like that for commenting at all.
Confederate American December 04, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Tear it down and be done with all of this. I really think we have other issues to deal with
Teresa K. December 05, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Sally: those of us who have seen your comments know that wasn't you. I think "someone" on here is trying to start some trouble and thinks you are an easy target. I wish Patch had an "ignore user" button.
Misty Jones December 05, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Yeah, like concerned Kent citizen etc
Traci Monroe December 05, 2012 at 08:43 PM
It would be nice if the posts verbally attacking people were deleted. What a sad mentality to have to constantly verbally attack those who don't agree with you.
Matt Fredmonsky December 06, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Comments were deleted for violating Patch's terms of use: http://kent.patch.com/terms

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