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Kent Wells Sherman House Relocation Edges Closer to Reality

Group vying to save 1858 structure granted variances by zoning appeals board; more reviews on tap this week.

The effort to save the 1858 Kent Wells Sherman House from a wrecking ball cleared several zoning hurdles Monday, but must negotiate more governmental hurdles tonight and Wednesday to stave off an Aug. 4 demolition deadline.

Kent’s Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday unanimously approved three variances requested by the non-profit group Kent Sherman Wells House Inc. to relocate the Greek Revival-style home from its present East Erie Street site to a vacant lot at 247 N. Water St.

The move is necessary for construction of , a led project designed to create a pedestrian link between campus and downtown Kent.

The volunteer group working to save the house with ties to the Kent family and other prominent citizens chose the 247 N. Water St. lot – sandwiched between and – from among more than a dozen possible sites.

The variances granted Monday by the zoning appeals board will:

  • Allow the proposed relocated building to have a 15-foot setback from its front property line, the sidewalk, instead of zero setback as called for in Kent’s commercial-downtown zoning district. This move had already been recommended by the Architectural Review Board to improve the building’s street presence and maintain its historic nature. According to a city staff report, adjacent landowners also requested the setback to maintain exposure of a window and sign at Standing Rock gallery and Cherokee artist Edwin George’s mural, “Love,” on the Scribbles building.
  • Allow the historic building to occupy only 48 percent of the lot’s street frontage as opposed to the 70 percent required by city code. The North Water Street parcel is 50 feet wide and the former house, which is just over 24 feet wide, will be centered on it. A site plan is attached to this article in .pdf form.
  • Allow the non-profit group to erect a free-standing sign in the front yard area instead of mounting one on the building itself, as required by code. The sign design will need approval by the Architectural Review Board prior to installation.

Appeals board member Steve Balazs, owner of the Scribbles Coffee building, said he’s grateful the vacant lot is being bought for a small project with a 15-foot setback because it allows for a view of the Edwin George mural “that has become an icon in our community.”

Balazs pointed out that the long-vacant lot could have been sold to someone who, by code, could build a new structure right up to the front and side property lines. “It’s kind of a blessing in disguise, getting a smaller building on this footprint,” he said.

Member Diane Werner said the board is usually asked to grant variances for buildings too large for their proposed lots, and that this was the first request she had ever seen for a project “too small” for the lot.

 “It could be a much worse outcome for surrounding businesses,” Werner said. “I think everybody wins in this situation.”

Opponents of the relocation do not want SRCA to lose the neighboring vacant lot it has used for years for a variety of projects and events. Jeff Ingram, Standing Rock executive director, told the appeals board that granting the variances would adversely affect his business because the historic structure would block natural light coming into the gallery.

Board member Elizabeth Howard said that while she understands Ingram’s point, there will be nearly 13 feet of land remaining between the Kent Wells Sherman House and Standing Rock gallery, so the natural light will only be reduced, not eliminated.

 “We’ve already lost, over time, too many historic buildings,” Howard said.

The Planning Commission will review the project’s site plan during a 7 p.m. meeting tonight at City Hall. On Wednesday, City Council will vote to amend an ordinance adopted June 20 that authorized a loan of up to $15,000 for the project to TransPortage Inc. The loan recipient’s name will be changed from TransPortage to Kent Wells Sherman House Inc.

Roger Thurman, vice president of the non-profit, said the group is anxious to finalize its purchase agreement for the lot, sign off on paperwork with the city and university, set a house-moving date and construct a new foundation on the North Water lot.

This all needs to occur before Aug. 4, the deadline agreed upon by the city and university to have the former homes on East Erie Street demolished.

“It’s a very tight time schedule so it’s very important to make this happen. To not make it happen, for the procedures to be derailed, would mean the destruction of this … very important historical structure,” Thurman said.

The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 18, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Almost as readable as a Dr. Bronner's label...
John Jacobs July 18, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Yeah...let's spend funds to move an old house that someone slept in.......but accept the fact that our neighborhoods where people own their homes and pay taxes are being over run by ghetto trash from Cleveland and Akron.....another shooting in Silver Meadows....and you people are worried about an old house......
Paxton Crenshaw July 18, 2012 at 07:49 PM
i'm more worried about living near someone like you john, who considers people of low economic standing "trash" and "animals" (i read your other posts). if you were to move into my neighborhood, your attitude would bring my property value down way further than any section 8 subsidized family ever could.
John Jacobs July 18, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Try again Paxton....I would venture a guess ( since you are so good at judging character)....that your a very liberal person who can afford a residence in a "good" part of town who approves of section 8 housing...as long as it isn't near you......my point is.....why import trouble that the taxpaying citizens of Kent has to pay for......why is the poorest community in Portage County putting an even larger strain on the taxpayers by importing low income people into our city???? Why is City Council allowing it??? I hear Hudson has some vacated property and their school system rates excellent....but Paxton......if I moved into your neighborhood, I'm sure my special needs child would bother you...and just the fact that I deliver newspapers as a side job to pay for speech and OT therapy would bring your property values down...your right I wouldn't want to throw your nice tranquil crime free neighborhood into chaos...you are better off with a poverty stricken liberal from Cleveland as your next door neighbor...in fact...I hope you get your wish.....
David Badagnani August 20, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Why are there many commenters discussing posts by a user named "Concerned Kent Citizen," but I cannot find a single instance of a comment by that user name? That is very confusing.

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