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Wells Sherman House Court Case Not Over

Group files objection to magistrate's ruling

The struggle persists over the relocation of a historic Kent house to a cherished piece of greenspace.

Kent attorney John Plough, representing members of the group Save the Standing Rock Garden, who oppose the relocation of the Kent Wells Sherman House to 247 N. Water St., has filed an objection to a magistrate's decision in the court case about the issue.

In December Portage County Magistrate Kent Graham denied three injunction requests made by Save the Standing Rock Garden in an effort to stop the relocation of the house to the lot, which has been used — but not owned — for decades by members of neighboring Kent arts group Standing Rock Cultural Arts.

Plough had asked the court for injunctions in November against the Kent Wells Sherman House Inc., board — the group trying to relocate the house — and the Kent Architectural Review Board and Kent Planning Commission — both of which cast votes approving the relocation — to try and stop the house from being set on the greenspace.

In his objection, Plough argues that the magistrate erred on five points, including:

  • Misconstruing a change in the site plan for the relocation project as new evidence that permitted a second review by the planning commission;
  • Accepting a city employee's interpretation of state law rather than making his own determination;
  • Permitting two members of the architecture board to vote on the issue despite conflicts of interest; 
  • Finding the city complied with Ohio Sunshine Laws regarding public notice of the architecture board meeting about the house relocation;
  • And failing to allow rebuttal testimony by Save the Standing Rock Garden during the preliminary hearing, which spanned several days.

As part of the objection, filed Dec. 20, Plough asked the court for an oral hearing to present additional evidence in the case.

No such hearing has yet been scheduled, according to court records.

North Canton attorney J. Michael Gatien, on behalf of Kent Wells Sherman House Inc., filed a response Jan. 7 asking the court to dismiss the case on the grounds Plough's objection includes no new arguments that weren't already heard during the preliminary hearings.

"All of the foregoing (arguments) are identical to the administrative appeal and have been decided," Gatien wrote.

For now, the house remains in its temporary spot at the dead end of East College Avenue, land owned by Kent State University, where it was moved in August. It was moved to stave off demolition so construction could start on the Esplanade expansion.

The house sat there under if it were not moved from that temporary location.

But university officials have said they will not make a decision on razing the house until the court case has concluded and, instead, prefer to aid in its relocation to a permanent site.

City building officials have yet to issue permits allowing construction of a foundation or other elements necessary to move the house to the lot at 247 N. Water St., which is owned by Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc.

Editor's note — Clarification: Standing Rock Cultural Arts is not a direct party to this lawsuit. It's board of directors voted not to become involved in the court action.

Balertwine January 18, 2013 at 08:50 PM
As if that corruption of the legal process was not enough, the August 2012 Architectural Review Board meeting, in violation of Ohio's Sunshine Law, was not announced to the public. The resultant situation should be of no surprise to anyone -- the meeting was not attended by anyone opposed to the relocation of the KWSH house. This meeting proved to be a place of powerful people not recusing themselves from the decision-making process, though the law clearly states they should have done so. Should citizens of Kent tolerate such abuse of power, or should they insist that the law be applied fairly and equitably to all? When members of a board have a conflict of interest, they are required to not comment and not vote on the issue at hand. This isn't a lofty ideal, this is a requirement in the law. This law was violated. (This should not be a comment on a newspaper article, this should be the article itself as a matter of investigative journalism.) "Prior to the discussion of any application, any Board member whose participation would constitute a conflict of interest shall recuse himself/herself from any discussion and subsequent vote on the application." Pretty clear, isn't it? You have a conflict of interest in the case, you stay out of it. You don't talk about it, and you don't vote on it. So why did two members of the Architectural Review Board participate in the discussion? I can see this as only one thing: a purposeful corruption of the legal process. That's disgusting.
Dr. Anarchy Clown PHD January 18, 2013 at 09:05 PM
"patch" does not encourage "investigative journalism"
David Badagnani January 23, 2013 at 03:33 AM
Where is the investigative journalism on the issues raised just bove?
Mike Reynolds January 25, 2013 at 02:18 PM
It is ignorant to think that something 150 years old has real historic significance. It is not like this is some kind of first nation settlement, or some kind of Viking or Egyptian dwelling here in town. There are many houses in similar styles still standing, and in fact this house is not that different than newer dwellings in the area. The Standing Rock Garden is much more important to the culture of Kent.
Mike Reynolds January 25, 2013 at 02:22 PM
It would be much more appropriate and culturally sensitive to the vibrant close knit community here to just take a few photos of the KWSH and then dismantle it. Use the historic timbers to make fittings for Ray's (an actual historic landmark) or something useful, or take any actual historic artifacts from the house and put them on display at Kent State as a part of a permanent exhibit on Kent architecture. Who really gains from this besides people who need a better office location downtown? Not families.

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