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City, Kent State to Relocate Wells-Sherman House Temporarily

Friends of Kent Wells Sherman House will have until Dec. 1 to save historic house from demolition

The historic Kent Wells-Sherman House from its location at 250 E. Erie St. to the western end of East College Avenue thanks to a partnership between the city and Kent State University.

Members of Kent City Council authorized city staff Wednesday to move forward on an agreement with the university to temporarily move the house to save it from immediate demolition.

The agreement would give the supporters of the house's restoration, the Friends of the Kent Wells Sherman House, until Dec. 1 to find a permanent location for the house.

Otherwise, it will be torn down if a permanent location can't be found before Dec. 1, Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said.

"Everybody acknowledges that the house would be taken down at that point," he said.

The 1858 Greek Revival-style house has ties to the Kent family and other early prominent citizens. 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 house will be placed on the bare patch of land at the end of East College Avenue near the intersection of South DePeyster Street and Haymaker Parkway and is owned by Kent State.

The university’s decision to “loan out” the land was made more than a week ago, after the Kent Planning Commission rejected for which the group has a purchase agreement with the private landowner.

Gregg Floyd, vice president for finance and administration at Kent State, said the university retains ownership of the house and would be legally responsible for the structure while it sits on the temporary site.

"I’m advised it’s our responsibility," Floyd said. "So I think until we convey title it would still be ours to maintain the insurance program on it. It’s on our land. It’s our house. It’s still ours."

The house is expected to be moved by Aug. 11 so construction can start on the Esplanade.

Kent Service Director Gene Roberts said the house mover plans to truck the house from Erie Street out onto Haymaker Parkway and then southwest to the temporary spot at the end of College Avenue.

Roberts said the house will sit with its back facing Haymaker Parkway.

"It will kind of sit for lack of a better term on an angle on Kent State’s property at the end of College (Avenue)," he said.

The Friends of the Wells Sherman House still must move the house a second time once a permanent location is found.

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, previously told Kent Patch 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.”

Roger Thurman, vice president of the non-profit Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. board, has said the group would like to avoid a court room if possible.

"Filing suit is expensive and time consuming," he said previously. "It’s a last-resort option that we would very much like to avoid."

Laurel Myers Hurst August 03, 2012 at 05:03 PM
City council's decision to loan funds are an issue, to be sure, but it is a loan not a grant.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 03, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Pax, do you know me? Who is "our" Lord... I don't know anyone named Paxton Crenshaw.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 03, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Now, Kelsey Crenshaw...that's a different matter...my fourth grade crush! (and still a very great friend)
Lisa Regula Meyer August 03, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Laurel, it's an unsecured loan, so there's nothing legally backing it. It's loaning a family member $15K and hoping they do the right thing, but if they don't- oh well.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 03, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Somebody PM me on Facebook to tell me who Paxton Crenshaw is, please.
Joseph Hughes August 03, 2012 at 06:14 PM
We'll see how KWSHI's tone changes when their purchase agreement expires before they can appeal the Planning Commission's justified ruling.
Kent Backdoor Sheetz August 03, 2012 at 07:16 PM
yep, we'll see. (cackles to himself like Lex Luther)
Traci Monroe August 06, 2012 at 12:16 AM
I am sooo glad I no longer live in Kent. Let me get this straight: If i owned property in the City of Kent and wanted to build a house, the neighbors, who are renting the house next door and have no legal claim on the property, could wine, cry and boohoo their way to preventing me from building my house on my property.
Colleen Thorndike August 06, 2012 at 12:20 AM
only if you were getting money from the City of Kent to build that house. The only reason why this whole relocating the house is such a hot button issue is because they are getting tax payer money. If it was a completely private transaction with all private money, then it would be a different story.
Traci Monroe August 06, 2012 at 01:33 AM
For me it's about an entity that doesn't own the property in question, or even any property adjacent for that matter, trying to dictate what happens to that property based solely on the fact that, by the grace of the property owner, they have been given free use of the property. I just don't understand how SRCA thinks they can control what happens to that property.
Delores Umbridge August 06, 2012 at 01:59 AM
It's about a former council person drawing a site plan for a lot around the corner from his house, using the non-profit he founded to push forward this plan with the help of two of his friends currently on council (one of whom incorporates a new non-profit when the first refuses to follow through with the project), while getting tax-payer money from the city and the university, and in-kind help out the wazoo. All for a project that isn't wanted in that neighborhood, except by the former council member, who just happens to stand to profit from this whole thing, since he is an architect who specializes in historic preservation. This whole thing smacks of cronyism and gentrification. It's not about property rights at all. If it were the case that outside parties had no right to voice their opinion about what goes on in their neighborhood, then Baker's towing would have no reason to not continue exactly what they're currently doing, and there would be no reason to not allow chickens in city limits. Find an alternate location for the house, and everybody goes home happy. It's really not that hard to understand, it's just working together as a community instead of bulldozing your neighbors and bullying people who don't look like you.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 06, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Wait, so now the greenspace preservationists are staging a last-stand against urban gentrification and intolerance? I thought this was about a differing opinion on land-use. In my opinion, it appears you are trying to defame the people who, for decades, have championed sustainable development, cultural and economic diversity and all-around good-heartedness. What is this whole thing coming to? I'm in tears.
Delores Umbridge August 06, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Laurel, this was their decision, to continue to pursue a vastly unpopular option instead of compromise. Even good people make mistakes, and it's not too late to fix this mistake and find a different site.
Paxton Crenshaw August 06, 2012 at 03:40 AM
LMH, save the sarcasm for when you and your pal Rick Hawksley are together - you can make each other giggle and impress each other with your self-righteousness.
Traci Monroe August 06, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I don't have the inside scoop about the council crooks in Kent, my personal issue is with property OWNERS rights. In my opinion what the Planning Commision has done is essentially told the actual owner of the property, no, you can't do anything with this property but keep it greenspace. If my parents kept their property looking like this property they would be fined left and right and told to clean it up.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 06, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Wow.
Lisa Regula Meyer August 06, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Traci, that's not what happened. The planning commission told KWSHI that TransPortage's site plan was not approved. Neither KWSHI nor TransPortage is the property owner, and there was no one stating that they could not become such. There was no ruling that the lot had to stay green space. The issue was this particular site plan filed by TransPortage. Nothing is stopping KWSHI from refiling a site plan for this property or any other property, and there's nothing stopping any land from changing hands. To my understanding, this hurdle would not be needed except for the city and KSU money involved and their requirements that this be a public space. If the house were being moved with private money and for private use, the house would already be there, but KWSHI is getting public money and claiming a public good. That creates more hurdles.
Traci Monroe August 06, 2012 at 01:15 PM
The July 18 article, "Green Space Trumps Historic Preservation" says differently, at least to me. I wonder how many supposed signatures of the online petition were actually valid. What I took from that article is that the Planning Commision will not approve any site plan that does not leave that lot as greenspace for the SRCA to use for free. That is my opinion.
Lisa Regula Meyer August 06, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I agree that the title was poorly worded, but you can read the minutes from the meeting online, and see that there was not a ruling by the planning commission that speaks to anything other than this particular site plan, which did not have community support. To be clear, it's the community that is objecting, not just SRCA;plenty of people who spoke out- including myself- were not a part of SRCA, but instead business owners in that area, community members, and Kent citizens that didn't want to see this site the way that the plan depicted it. Many of us who want to see 247 North Water Street remain house-less have tried and tried to help find alternatives that would preserve both the house and the gardens, but instead we're told that KWSHI will do what they want, that they have a purchase agreement, there are no other options, and that no matter what the community wants, they're going to do just as they please. Now that the house is safe until December 1st, there's plenty of time to find an appropriate place for this house.
Traci Monroe August 06, 2012 at 02:51 PM
In the grand scheme of things it's not going to matter, eventually Kent State will own all of Kent and it will all get torn down anyway. I have no problem with OWNERS of property surrounding this property objecting, I have a problem with "renters" objecting. Personally I could care less what happens to this house. My objection is what I percieve to be a violation of property owners rights by an entity that doesn't own property.
Lisa Regula Meyer August 06, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Unfortunately, you're right about Kent State. There are owners objecting to this as well, in part because parking is already an issue, and another "business" is going to exacerbate it with the addition of three offices upstairs, and if there do end up being community events for 20-25 people in the downstairs, it'll be a nightmare. I'm sorry you perceive this to be a violation of property rights, but even the Kent law department has stated that an appeal to the board of zoning appeals was inappropriate, as the planning commission had a right to rule the way they did. For private transactions with no public funding going into them, this ruling has very little chance of ever coming into play. In all honesty, this is very similar to what happened to the seniors at Silver Oaks ("renters" opposing changes being made by an owner or prospective owner); since that was a fully private transaction and did not involve public resources, however, there was a very different outcome.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! August 06, 2012 at 03:12 PM
I own property in Kent and despite this, I can not raise a few chickens on MY PROPERTY. "Owner's rights" is BS. Eminent domain still exists much to the dismay of owners and their supposed/believed rights.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 06, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Traci, I agree with Lisa that this is not so much a matter of "renters" objecting. SRCA members are disagreeing on the basis that they are Kent citizens and a public loan has been extended to assist in the purchase of property on which to situate the Wells-Sherman house. SRCA seems to be invested in this dispute because they are most effected by the proposal, but they don't claim any explicit or implicit right to the property.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 06, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Property rights are regulated by the law: 1) If we want chickens in Kent, we simply have to change the law...the very thing CLUCKent is organized to do, and 2) the planning commission should not supersede the laws regarding private property transfer/use based upon the emotions of a few citizens (we simply disagree regarding how the public loan plays into the rights of citizens to dictate terms of a private land transfer/use agreement). However, the planning commission ordinances and rules laws could definitely to be changed to create special consideration for public opinion in cases funded by public money.
Laurel Myers Hurst August 06, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Regarding eminent domain, make certain we elect city council members who don't believe that eminent domain should be enacted willy nilly, and keep reiterating your feelings about eminent domain to council. From what I've seen, KSU was forced to take private property owners' rights pretty seriously in building the esplanade...In the end, they coughed up more $$ than most would have imagined. I live 1 house from the campus border...if KSU wants my house...COME AND GET IT :)
Laurel Myers Hurst August 06, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Won't the property serve as collateral?
Lisa Regula Meyer August 06, 2012 at 05:00 PM
If council had made it a secured loan, then that could have been the case, but as it stands, they left it as UNsecured, so no collateral is required/used.
Marvin Kent August 06, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I hope that when the house does go on the green space everyone can put all of this bickering aside and work together to make a nice neighborhood. Remember, all of this arguing is irrelevant since the house will be placed on the North Water Street site that much we now know for sure. The biggest hurdle at this point is for the two opposing sides to join together to make this a workable space. MK
Delores Umbridge August 06, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Why not find a workable space, instead of being stubborn bullies? Nobody wants that kind of attitude in a neighbor.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! August 06, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Yikes. I agree Delores. Bully is a good term.

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