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A magistrate has vacated a restraining order against the group planning to move the historic Kent Wells Sherman House, allowing the non-profit group to resume work on its plans to relocate the building to North Water Street.
A citizens group known as Save the Standing Rock Garden, which is attempting to prevent the historic house from being moved onto the site of a community garden and performance space, filed for the temporary restraining order last month that prohibited Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. from "disturbing or removing trees, plants and soils, making any excavation, and placing any structures or equipment (at 247 N. Water Street)." The group also filed an administrative appeal against the city of Kent in October, alleging the city violated Ohio's Sunshine Law by not properly publicizing an Architectural Review Board meeting where members of the board discussed a site plan for the house on North Water Street.
Magistrate Kent Graham ruled earlier this week that he was vacating the temporary restraining order because Save the Standing Rock Garden group "could not establish any ownership" of the lot. The ruling, which will be reviewed by Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow and can be appealed, did not offer a decision on the citizen group's case against the city of Kent.
Roger Thurman, vice chair of Kent Wells Sherman House Inc., said the group now needs a foundation permit from the city for the Water Street site before it can move the house from its current location on Kent State University property at the dead end of East College Avenue. KSU originally set today as the deadline for Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. to move the building off its property to Water Street, but Thurman said KSU officials have told him they can extend that time frame.
"The university is flexible," Thurman said. "It's not an iron-clad deadline."
He said his group wishes no ill will to the Save the Standing Rock Garden Group, but added he is pleased the court ruled in Kent Wells Sherman House Inc.'s favor.
"We're relieved we can go ahead with our plans," Thurman said.
Built in 1858 for Frances Kent Wells, daughter of town founding father Zenas Kent, the Greek Revival house was purchased by KSU along with a group of other boarding houses on Erie Street for the purpose of demolition to make room for a pedestrian walkway. Once a group of residents 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 to them for $1 if they could find a new site.
While the group prepared the Water Street site for the house's arrival, KSU allowed the house to rest on its land on College Avenue, where it currently sits.
KSU spokeswoman Emily Vincent said in an email that the university is "working closely with the city" on the issue and "hoping the court will bring a quick resolution the pending legal action."
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I find it bizarre that anyone wants to save this house. So it's old, so what? Let the greenspace be green; we don't need another eyesore downtown. This house has long since lost it's original character, having been gutted and remodeled for student housing over the years, and if this is an example of an architectural style of long ago, maybe it's a style better forgotten.