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New Wells-Sherman House Plan gets OK from Architecture Board

Friends of Kent Wells-Sherman House presented altered site plan for 247 N. Water St. lot

The historic Kent Wells-Sherman House is one step closer to relocating to 247 N. Water St., the site preferred by the non-profit group working to restore the house.

The Kent Architectural Review Board issued a certificate of appropriateness to the Friends of the Kent Wells-Sherman House, Inc., for a site plan that puts the house on the vacant lot between and .

The project's site plan will next go to the Kent Planning Commission for consideration on Sept. 4.

But there's a catch. The architecture board recommended the house be set back between 12 feet and 15 feet from North Water Street.

And the planning commission already voted this summer for that lot that showed the house set back 15 feet from the street.

This is where the issue gets complicated.

Rick Hawksley, a member of the non-profit Kent Wells-Sherman house group, said because the commission rejected the earlier site plan they had to substantially alter the plan before it could be resubmitted for reconsideration.

The substantial change they made was to put the house just 16 inches back from the North Water Street sidewalk.

"We aired on the side of substantial change not knowing how that would be interpreted," Hawksley said. "It would be preferable to have more" of a setback.

Kent Assistant Law Director Eric Fink said city code dictates that a site plan must be different before it can be resubmitted to the planning commission if denied.

"It does not say what is different enough," Fink said.

Several members of the architecture board agreed with Hawksley and said the house would be better suited situated further back from the street.

"I don't think it should be any closer than 10 feet," architecture board member Howard Boyle said. "Even 10 feet is not very long."

So the architecture board's certificate of appropriateness comes with the recommendation that the planning commission approve a site plan with the house set back 12 feet to 15 feet from the street.

Fink said the Friends of the Kent Wells-Sherman House still have to present the altered site plan, showing the house 16 inches from the sidewalk, to the planning commission on Sept. 4.

"But they can say the architectural review board recommended the (larger) set back," he said. "And the planning commission would have to act appropriately."

Previous coverage:

Tina Puckett August 25, 2012 at 09:18 PM
I do not doubt that KWSH did a lot of work checking out sites. They checked out twelve and added five more after other suggestions. I understand they were initially on a very limited timeframe. SRCA and community members have been and continue to be deeply committed to seeking other spaces since this issue arose and we’ve made many phone calls to research alternatives. Unfortunately, as soon as we mention a location, it is shot down without further research of options—or at least it seems that way from the immediate responses. An example of this was in a recent Record Courier article when someone made a suggestion and a KWSH board member suggested that it was hard to respond to because the person could intend “ulterior motives,” which clearly shows a shutdown on the part of any suggestions made by anyone who may be supporting the green space. Suggestions have been made by experts not even affiliated with SRCA for how to save on expenses but no one seems to follow through—except the green space supporters. If information is available and free from experts, it would be very worth checking out instead of disregarding, particularly when in need of finances and on the dole of the taxpayers for a 10 year loan.
Tina Puckett August 25, 2012 at 09:18 PM
A very practical reason that I can offer for not placing the house on 247 N Water St is the lack of support in light of community dissension. There could be much more (financial and other) support for the project if the community was not divided about the location of this house. Many green space supporters are avid supporters of historic preservation. That people don’t matter in this equation is troubling in the opinion of many of the supporters. The rarity of this vibrant, well-used green space—which includes more living things than only blades of grass, organic plants, and native plants—is not something that should be utterly disregarded. In fact, it further offers a reason that this green space should be preserved and SRCA (along with numerous community members) stands by that.
Traci Monroe August 25, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I'm glad I'm not the only one.
Traci Monroe August 26, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Tina, what will SRCA do if the current owner, of the building they are renting, decides to sell or not renew the rental agreement or lease. I am honestly curious, not just trying to be a smart a$$.
Sue August 26, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Tina, I am impressed by your passion and by the passion of those who want to use the site as folks are currently using it. In light of what you write here, I hope that the Friends of the Wells-Sherman House are able to find another site for the house.
Sue August 27, 2012 at 11:05 AM
My child has participated in SRCA events, and he does not care whether the house gets moved to the site. He is fine either way. There are plenty of places for kids to play in Kent, and there is plenty of "green space."
Sue August 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM
William, this is not true, and I find your comments to be unhelpful. I am a resident of Kent, and you do not speak for me, nor do you speak for many other residents of Kent. I do not belong to the friends of the Wells Sherman House either. From what I have observed, the folks who want to move the house have been honest and up front about their goals. They have followed proper procedures. SRCA folks are guests on the land. They have no claim to it beyond a history of using it. I will not call either side "childish" or "bullying." People on both sides have legitimate concerns, and calling others names solves nothing. I urge you to drop your accusatory approach and work to find a way to satisfy the interests of all parties in this dispute.
Balertwine August 27, 2012 at 05:17 PM
I also disagree with an opinion stated here, "For the SRCA to think that the owner would never do anything with that property but continue to let them use it for free is pretty arrogant." For all we know, this was the property owner's way of being generous to SRCA. This could easily have been a case of generosity on the part of the owner rather than arrogance on the part of SRCA. For all we know, the owner had no desire to sell it until approached by KSWH. And for all we know, the owner could very well have been under the incorrect impression that SRCA wanted the house relocated onto the property, and on that basis signed the first option sales agreement with KSWH. This contract locks out any bids or offers from others for a specified period of time, during which KSWH decides whether to proceed with the purchase. KSWH will not want to proceed with the purchase if the government does not approve KSWH's proposed use of the land. Upon expiration of the first option contract, SRCA can then make an offer on the land.
Balertwine August 27, 2012 at 05:25 PM
The owner can indeed sell it to whoever he wants, unless the government wants the land and uses eminent domain powers to buy it. Locally, eminent domain is implemented for street widenings, and was used to purchase land for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This is not a case of eminent domain, but I'm stating these things so people realize there are limits to landowner's rights. Currently, the owner could sell it to whoever he wanted except he has signed a first option agreement with KWSH that locks out other prospective buyers for awhile. Since the government has the power to tell owners what can and cannot be built on a piece of land, some prospective buyers, such as KSWH, may decide they do not want to buy the land. So since KWSH didn't have government approval, and still does not have government approval, to relocate the house onto that piece of property, it has been arrogant on the part of KWSH to state over and over in these Patch comments "The house will be relocated onto 247 N. Water St, get used to it." Even KWSH knows this is not necessarily true, otherwise they would have purchased the land outright rather than signing a first option contract.
Traci Monroe August 27, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Of course you do.
Traci Monroe August 27, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Why are you so against landowner's rights?
Balertwine August 27, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I feel it's disingenuous for KSWH to re-approach the Planning Board with a plan to put the house 16 inches from the sidewalk when they have no intention of doing so. I believe an examination of the quotes in the above Patch article shows that KSWH admitted they only made this new proposal in an attempt to get their foot in the door with the Planning Commission. Since a new plan has to be substantially different than a previously rejected plan, but KSWH does not want the house 16 inches from the sidewalk, KSWH is proposing this new location in bad faith, I believe. Didn't KSWH approach the Zoning Board asking for variances so the house would not have to be placed as close to the sidewalk as normal, and weren't these variances approved? The rejection of the house by the Planning Board was not because of its location to the sidewalk but because of other factors. The whole history of KSWH's actions are for the house to be placed where the Planning Board already rejected the plan. If the Planning Board accepts the re-submittal of a plan proposed by KWSH in bad faith, a plan proposed only to get KSWH before the Planning Board a second time, this will set a dangerous precedent that the Planning Board will have to contend with on all other projects in Kent they will be evaluating in the future. The Planning Board must ask themselves, what's the limit? Will KSWH be back in two weeks with a plan they do not want approved, setting the house two feet north? Will Arby's follow suit?
Sue August 27, 2012 at 07:08 PM
You know what would be great? If the two groups could stop fighting each other and get together and come up with a plan that benefits all the residents of Kent in several ways. Imagine if the two groups worked together and got the owner of both the lot in question and the lot and building where SRCA is now located to sell them their properties. The two groups working together could tear down the dilapidated building the SRCA now rents, move the Wells-Sherman House there and make it the home to SRCA and keep the green space as it is. The Wells-Sherman House would become the center for the arts run by SRCA. I know that is dreaming. But imagine what a great coalition the two groups would make for supporting the arts and culture in Kent and for preserving the heritage of the city.
Tina Puckett August 27, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Sue, I'm sorry, I mean no disrespect but I honestly don't recall any theater parents by your name although I have not always been involved with the organization and NWCT has run many years. NWCT students and children who have frequented the gallery with parents have mentioned to me out-of-the-blue that they don't want to lose the garden and asked what they can do. I'm never sure how to answer except to say, "I know..." Several of the adult former students have also joined the green space cause. As I responded to the other comment (and I think this just further shows that), no one (from the green space supporters) is telling children (these children I mention, as well as your own child) to react or how to react but they do have opinions. In your case, the child is not impacted by the potential move and I am happy that he is not. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many of the NWCT students and I am moved by their attachments to the space. There are lots of places, spaces, and things in the world, I agree, but it does not mean that you will necessarily enjoy them all in the same way and for the same reasons.
Tina Puckett August 27, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Traci, if SRCA ever moved, we would still be able to plan the same outdoor events in this space (with a rain location wherever any new gallery in Kent might be) although we enjoy the neighborhood that we are in and hope to remain in that area. If for any reason SRCA ever ceased to be, we would discuss transfer of the land with the Kent Housing Co-op, a time-tested organization that has offered a grant towards the efforts for continued preservation of the green space, community gardens, and uses. KHC has offered to partner in maintenance and collaborative use of the space. It should be noted that KHC has also offered assistance in preserving the Kent Wells Sherman House in the interest of a win-win situation for the majority of the community as mentioned in previous Patch comments.
Tina Puckett August 27, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Traci, is this still a case of thinking that the landowner having rights to sell to whomever he wants (which is the case) is somehow against the landowner's rights? I'm not following your logic and I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I'm just really not following your logic.
Tina Puckett August 27, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Sue, that's a really thoughtful suggestion. I love the thinking outside the box and the focus on a win-win and I hope more people will do the same! :) It should be noted, however, that SRCA is not the only resident of the 257 N Water St complex. There are resident-tenants above the businesses and the Vinyl Underground Record Store in the other half of the building so they would be displaced without a home by this current suggestion. The rents generated by SRCA and the other tenants are most likely of continued interest to Mr. Rhoads (the building owner) as well. I do love the idea of the green space and historic home both being preserved however and hope more dialogues like this occur!
Tina Puckett August 27, 2012 at 11:37 PM
It should also be noted that SRCA and KWSH have dialogued and have sat down to meet even recently but no win-win has been reached so far. SRCA (along with numerous community members) continues to hope for a win-win!
Traci Monroe August 28, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Tina, Balertwine keeps bringing up eminent domain and how limited a landowner's rights are and how the government "has the power to tell owners what can and cannot be built on a piece of land" I'm just wondering why he's so against landowners having rights when it comes to their own property.
Traci Monroe August 28, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Tina, thanks for answering, that sounds like a great plan. Unfortunately I am of the opinion that sometime within the next 10-15 years that side of town will meet with the same fate as the other side of main, it will be slated for redevelopment and the historic buildings will all be demolished. That is why I asked the question.
Chris (Kit) Myers August 28, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Gee, I wonder if the Architectural Review Board and the Planning Commission reviewed any site plans submitted by Kent State (if they submitted any) before they plunked the Mae Prentiss house on the vacant lot that they own at 220 South Willow. It sirs way back on the lot, is not aligned with the lot lines, and is within a very few feet of my property line. The University's Mr. Tom Euclide told me that he checked with the city and was told that it was not in violation of any Kent codes. Since the City is being so cautious about how the Wells-Sherman house has to sit on Water Street, I find that rather hard to believe. I asked Mr. Euclide how he would like the Mae Prentiss house sitting like that next to his house. He responded, "I wouldn't." According to Mr. Euclide, and contrary to the original University statements that it was going to be moved TEMPORARILY to 214 South Willow (they actually moved it to 220), it is in its permanent position. Nobody seems to care about my fine student tenants. I am reasonably sure that someone from the Architectural Review Board or the Planning Commission is reading this. I ask, did this come before your board or is Kent State, my alma mater, allowed to do anything it wants without City approval? I am in the phone book. I do not expect to receive a call.
Traci Monroe August 28, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Of course Kent State gets to do whatever it wants, it has unconditional City approval, after all they are the top employer in the city of Kent how many times have we heard that rhetoric. What Kent State wants Kent State gets, usually at the expense of the taxpayers.
William B Budner ESQ. August 28, 2012 at 01:55 AM
stop complaining about KSU, without them this would be a tiny one horse town, and you wouldn't have those lovely rentals putting money in your pockets...
Jim Williams August 28, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Chris (Kit) Myers: All the planning commission minutes are on the city's website: http://www.kentohio.org/boards/pc-minutes.asp Feel free to research the Prentiss House move before impugning someone's work or character. While I'm sure the University receives a bit of well-deserved favoritism, I'm also pretty sure they obey the letter of the law.
Chris (Kit) Myers August 28, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Mr. Budner, you are once again showing your ignorance of Kent's history. With the coming of the railroad the City was in a position to leap forward and become an bustling small industrial town. People took advantage of that position and worked very hard to make Kent a fine place to live and work. Before the University was here Kent was doing more than just fine. Of course the University being here has caused growth, but to say that without it Kent would be a tiny one horse town is just plain false. Open your eyes. Look around you at the industry and commerce that is here. And, Mr. Budner, I resent your statement about my rental. You don't know what you're talking about and you just spread the lie that all student rental properties are dumps. My rental may not be Buckingham Palace but it is a fine place for students to live. Why don't you ask some of them? Perhaps you might find that you are indeed full of beans and then cease your ignorant blab. But I doubt that you could ever admit that you are wrong about anything.
Paxton Crenshaw August 28, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Mr. Budner, ESQ. speaks the truth.
Chris (Kit) Myers August 28, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Thanks, Mr. Williams for the web site. I don't see where I have impugned the work or character of anyone at the University. I have just asked questions and stated facts. And why should the university deserve favoritism? Is the University more equal under the law than I am? I do not hate the university. My mother taught there and I have two degrees from there.
William B Budner ESQ. August 28, 2012 at 03:51 AM
i didn't say anything about your rentals other than that you make money off of them based on KSU being here. also i stand by my statement, a majority of the people who live in kent do so because of KSU not despite it. if KSU wasn't here, this would be a town similar to all the drab little towns surrounding kent, boring. if you don't like KSU then leave for greener pastures. there's no sense hating the institution and things that come with it when you CHOOSE to live here.
Balertwine August 28, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Traci, back when man first descended from the trees and began living in caves, things were much simpler. Grunk lived in a cave he defended with a club and his spear. Most stayed away from Grunk as they feared him and knew he was a good shot with his spear. One day, Borko came by and said, "Hey Grunk, you can't build your fire in your cave like that, you're destroying the etchings your grandfather drew on the ceiling!" Well, Grunk speared Borko, and that settled that. Grunk continued to burn his fires as high as he wanted. It was a good system. Things went downhill after that. Things like zoning laws, zoning boards, architectural review boards, and planning commissions came into existence. You can no longer do what you want with your cave or your piece of land through reliance on your club and your spear. It's a sad situation, but at least it keeps your neighbor from turning his backyard into a nuclear waste dump if he feels like it. You probably wouldn't like that. Instead of knocking on his door to complain, and risk getting speared, you nowadays go to the zoning board and things like that. If you disagree with this system, you'll have to somehow overturn 200 years of case law in the United States. Good luck with that.
Balertwine August 28, 2012 at 04:14 AM
I've attempted to explain the fundamental reality of these laws. I haven't advocated for or against landowners' rights. In short, everything that has occurred has been legal -- people without current or prospective ownership interest in 247 N. Water St. expressed their concerns to the Planning Board, and the board voted against approving the plans to locate the house onto 247 N. Water St. Like it or not, this is all legal. By "ownership interest" I'm talking about members of the community who don't own or plan on owning 247 N. Water St. They have the right to express their views to the Planning Board, whether KSWH likes it or not. Again, I'm not arguing one way or another, I'm simply explaining that this is how the laws have evolved. So, it's silly for KSWH to argue that the artist who created the mural on the side of Scribbles has no right to voice his opinion to the Planning Commission. As a resident of the community he has the right to do so if he so wishes. Perhaps KSWH would like to pretend it has the power to rewrite 200 years of case law without anybody noticing.

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