A lawsuit seeking to prevent the Kent Wells Sherman House from relocating to the site of a former North Water Street green space came to a close in Portage County Common Pleas Court Thursday with a ruling in favor of the historic home's move.
The case, filed by the citizen group, Save the Standing Rock Garden, claimed the 1858 Greek Revival structure shouldn't be moved to 247 N. Water St. because it would disturb the present flora, prevent Standing Rock Cultural Art's use of the property and obscure the view of a mural on the north facing wall of Scribbles Coffee Co. The case also claimed the city of Kent's Architectural Review Board violated the city's open meeting law, the board's members had a conflict of interest when voting to approve a certificate of appropriateness, and the Kent Planning Commission improperly approved a second site plan approval after denying the first.
A decision issued Wednesday by Magistrate Kent Graham states that each of those claims are unfounded. Common Pleas Judge John Enlow ruled Thursday to accept Graham's decision.
"Plaintiffs ... have no ownership, no legitimate claim, and no express permission to exclude Wells-Sherman from improving its lot," Graham wrote, adding that the flora is not unusual, rare or endangered, plaintiffs have no right to be on the lot without permission, and the mural is easily viewed from the sidewalk.
Graham further wrote that the open meeting law had not been violated, that there was no conflict of interest from Architectural Review Board members because the two members with conflicting interest recused themselves from voting, and that the Planning Commission did not err in approving a second site plan.
If the plaintiffs appeal the decision, an appellate court will have to decide whether or not to hear the case.
Lisa Regula-Meyer, the primary witness of Save the Standing Rock Garden, declined to comment because she had not been made aware of the ruling.
Built in 1858 for Frances Kent Wells, daughter of town patriarch Zenas Kent, the Kent Wells Sherman House was purchased by Kent State University with a group of boarding houses on Erie Street for demolition to make room for a pedestrian walkway. Once a group of residents, now organized as Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., announced their intention to save the house because of its place in Kent history, KSU agreed to help the group move the house out of the walkway path and sell it for $1 if they could find a new site.
While the group prepared the North Water Street site for the house's arrival, KSU allowed the house to rest on its land on College Avenue near DePeyster Street.
Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc. vice chair Roger Thurman said the organization has its permits and financing in order, site preparation has already begun, and foundation work will start next week.
"We're landowners, and we can develop our property," Thurman said, adding that depending on weather and the home mover's availablity, the house could be moved to its new site in August.
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