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Temporary Home Found For Kent Wells Sherman House

Planning Commission rejection of North Water Street site plan results in historic home having to be moved twice.

The demolition-threatened historic Kent Wells Sherman House is safe — at least through Dec. 1 — as has agreed to temporarily house it on a scrap of College Avenue land it acquired last year during a swap with the city.

Roger Thurman, vice president of the non-profit Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. board, said the temporary location is “good news for the house, but it’s not good news for us. It’s yet another complication, another detour for the house.”

The 1858 Greek Revival-style house with ties to the Kent family and other early prominent citizens can be stored on the lot through Dec. 1, said Kent State spokesperson Emily Vincent.

The house relocation from its present spot on East Erie Street is necessary for construction of , a Kent State-led project designed to create a pedestrian link between campus and downtown Kent.

The university’s decision to “loan out” the land was made last Friday, after the Kent Planning Commission rejected for which it has a purchase agreement with the private landowner.

Many were surprised by the planning commission’s decision as the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals just one day prior had unanimously approved three variances that would have allowed the historic structure to be moved onto the North Water Street parcel. The project also had been recommended for approval by city planning staff members.

“The context of the North Water site is perfect, and we don’t think we’ve done anything wrong in trying to put it there,” Thurman said this week.

Had the commission approved the site plan, the house could have been moved to North Water prior to the Aug. 4 deadline agreed upon by the university and city for the East Erie Street houses to be demolished.

During a Kent City Council meeting last week, City Manager Dave Ruller announced that the demo deadline had been extended to Aug. 11 – but even that extension won’t prevent the KWSH group from having to move the house twice.

The group had filed a request to appeal the planning commission’s decision to the zoning board during its Aug. 20 meeting. Eric Fink, the city’s assistant law director, said late Thursday he had issued a ruling that the appeal request is the wrong route to take.

According to city law, he explained, the zoning board can only consider appeals of decisions made by the zoning inspector or the planning commission for the issuance of zoning certificates or conditional zoning certificates.

“Before the planning commission was a site plan review, which does not result in the issuance of either type of certificate,” Fink said. “The planning commission has the ultimate authority when it comes to site plans.”

That leaves the KWSH group only two options to continue pursuing the North Water parcel: file suit in Portage County Common Pleas Court, or file a new site plan with the planning commission. For the latter choice, Fink said, city law “requires that it be a substantially different (site) plan or that there be newly discovered evidence.”

Thurman said the KWSH board does not want to go to court. “Filing suit is expensive and time consuming. It’s a last-resort option that we would very much like to avoid,” he explained.

It’s too late for the group to file a new site plan for the planning commission’s Aug. 7 agenda, but there is time to meet the filing deadline for its Aug. 21 meeting.

While formulating their next course of action, the group also is making plans to get the house moved about 100 yards to the small right-of-way parcel located where College Street dead-ends into Haymaker Parkway, just east of South DePeyster Street.

“We met with the mover (Tuesday) and he’s ready to go. We’ll get it out of the way by (Aug. 11),” Thurman said. “The house is strong and stable and easy for the mover to move. It’s not a junky house. It's endured for a long time and when it’s restored it will be an asset to the community.”

Thurman said he encourages people to visit the new KWSH website, which includes project updates, a history of the house and the list of alternative sites that were considered for the historic home before the North Water parcel was chosen.

Gina Corron July 27, 2012 at 03:23 PM
YAY ! You've done the RIGHT THING by not putting it on the N. Water Street location! This is a fine example of how people who possess power should think things thru more clearly before acting on how they "feel" (for wanting to destroy the green space).... THANKFULLY someone came to their senses and realized that it would have been a BAD MOVE.. Thank you for thinking clearly !
Sherry July 27, 2012 at 03:35 PM
It seems the owners of the property on Water St gave approval for the house to be moved there. No one else should get an opinion. Why own property if others think they can tell you what to do with it!
Frederick John Kluth July 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM
The decision by the planning commission to reject the N. Water St. site was just and fair and should not be challenged. The Friends of the Wells -Sherman house claim that they are acting in the public interest yet it is plain that is not the case. They say the house will support the art activities at the North Water Street site, but there is no evidence that this is true. They need a much better plan. Everyone I know hopes the house can be sited and restored as this would demonstrate some commitment to historic preservation by the city. But the idea that you can just push everybody out of your way to accomplish this is not a good precedent. The program of the Standing Rock Cultural Arts Organization probably needs more support and should not be damaged. Unfortunately the action has been set up as a choice as to which is better because the other will be eliminated. This is unfortunate.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 27, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Finally, a good move! The house lives on, as does the treasured greenspace. So far, so good. I'm not sure why Roger is still unable to see this as good news for everyone involved. And frankly, now that the deadline for moving the house is Dec 1st, there should be no obstacles in the way of finding a permanent, wanted location for the home. If the funds can't be obtained within 4 months, maybe the house wasn't going to be valued asset to the community it's touted to be. "“The context of the North Water site is perfect, and we don’t think we’ve done anything wrong in trying to put it there,” Thurman said this week." Well, a lot of people voiced their opinions against ripping apart more land and I'm sorry you didn't hear them. We're all in this community. Long live the greenspace, long live the house! Win/win!
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 27, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I own property and I can't raise chickens on it. Interesting...
Lisa Regula Meyer July 27, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Exactly, Mary Lou. This is great news, and gives the community time to step up and find a good place for this house, not a site that's a "marriage of convenience" to quote one of the planning commissioners. Especially when a group is claiming a community good to a project, the community gets some input. Let's keep the momentum going and find the best spot available for the house, so that everyone goes home happy.
Teresa K. July 27, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I agree with you Sherry. If the owner gave the go ahead and if the zoning codes were all in order with the house being put there, it should have been a go. However, when I look at that picture up there of the KWSH in between two stone structures, it looks totally out of place. No amount of greenery or shrubs make it look like it ever belonged there. I am sure the perfect place will be found! I think the planning commission made a good call here.
David Badagnani July 27, 2012 at 05:26 PM
"Its endured for a long time" should be "It's endured for a long time"
Kasha Legeza July 27, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Fast typing ... thanks!
Delores Umbridge July 27, 2012 at 08:51 PM
The Photoshop rendering of the house sitting on North Water Street is actually quite interesting, lots of additions besides just putting the house there. I hope they can make this all work in a different location. I'd hate to see the project fail, especially since so many grants and unsecured city loans are going into the Kent-Wells-Sherman house.
Balertwine July 28, 2012 at 09:17 AM
That house has been standing in Kent since 1858. No one has the right to lay down a deadline for its destruction, especially a branch of our government, when the citizens of this city have clearly, unanimously expressed a desire for its preservation, and the only issue is where to relocate it. A member of KWSH already stated right here in the Kent Patch that N. Water St. was not the #1 choice, but was actually way down the list. Now, there's time to really take a look at the situation, figure out the house's functionality -- how it can best be utilized, whether in the private sector or in the public sector, that type of thing. It would be terrible to relocate it, for example, dependent on tenants for survival, and then have the income from rents etc. insufficient to pay off the debts incurred for its relocation and restoration. So now I encourage a thorough look at the proposal that it be used as a KSU building, or a City building, in a park or as a park in and of itself -- we have park shelters, why not use this as a community-owned structure, that groups such as Kiwanis etc. could use -- all kinds of possibilities, and now there's breathing space to figure it out.
Balertwine July 28, 2012 at 09:17 AM
It has now become part of the moral obligation of our government to get serious about this and help figure this out. The Egyptians, when they built the Aswan Dam, went through a lot of trouble to relocate ancient stone structures from the areas to be flooded. The government didn't just say, "OK, we're flooding this area, you people form nonprofit agencies real quick to raise money and relocate ancient sculptures of King Tehulptucep before August 4 or they'll be underwater." No, that's silly, and to me it's just as silly reading deadlines laid down by KSU administrators, or "the Parks Dept. is disinterested" statements. So, the entire Kent community can now figure out the private/public use answer, the best location answer, and if a better spot's on Main St. or XXXX St. as a public building of some sort, even exercise eminent domain powers to put it there instead of allowing a gas station or a burger joint to be built there. This house doesn't have to go on a piece of land in a big hurry that's a choice of last resort where quite a few folks don't want it to go.
Chris (Kit) Myers July 28, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Where the Robin Hood was.
Traci Monroe July 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I find it interesting that I can not find out who the owner of the vacant property in question is. Apparently there is no public record of who actually owns it. Who is the owner and what does he/she want done with the lot?
Teresa K. July 28, 2012 at 01:47 PM
@tracy: in a past article on the KentPatch this was commented as to who owns the land: track down the June 29th article on this topic. First three comments: not sure how accurate it is.... Lots of info in the comments too. http://kent.patch.com/articles/standing-rock-starts-petition-to-save-green-space
Kasha Legeza July 28, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Scroll to the bottom of the KWSH homepage (http://kwsh.org/) for the list of sites considered and why they were rejected. Interestingly, the Robin Hood site says "already sold."
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 28, 2012 at 10:02 PM
http://www.portagecountyauditor.org/Data.aspx?ParcelID=17-024-20-00-041-000 ARTHUR PROPERTY MANAGEMENT LLC
Traci Monroe July 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Thank you Mary Lou, I did a search by address and nothing came up, I could see addresses around it but that one would not come up.

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