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UPDATE: Court Denies All Injunction Requests to Stop Wells Sherman House

Magistrate's order issued Wednesday, made public today

A Portage County magistrate has ruled that several requests for an injunction to stop the relocation of the Kent Wells Sherman House to 247 N. Water St. have all been denied by the court.

Portage County magistrate Kent Graham issued his ruling in the case Wednesday, and the order became public for the first time this afternoon, essentially allowing the relocation of the house to the vacant lot between the Scribbles Coffee building and the Standing Rock Cultural Arts gallery.

Kent residents under the banner Save the Standing Rock Garden filed requests for injunctions last month against the Kent Architectural Review Board, Kent Planning Commission and the Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., board to try and stop the relocation of the historic house.

"Upon review and considerations of the motions, pleadings, verified complaint, and affidavit filed herein and the trial testimony and exhibits, the magistrate finds that plaintiffs have not established the elements necessary to grant preliminary injunctions," Graham wrote. "Consequently, plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunctions against Wells-Sherman and Kent City's Architectural Review Board and Planning Commission cannot be granted."

Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow, for whom Graham serves as magistrate, signed off on the ruling Wednesday.

In his ruling, Graham explained the four criteria the request of the plaintiff, in this case members of Save the Standing Rock Garden, would have to meet in order for the court to grant an injunction — essentially a court order prohibiting an action.

  • Whether there is a substantial likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits of the case
  • Whether the plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted
  • Whether third parties will be unjustifiably harmed if the injunction is granted
  • Whether the public good will be served by the injunction

3 injunction requests

In reviewing the case, Graham had to rule on three basic requests for a preliminary injunction.

The first request for an injunction by members of Save the Standing Rock Garden was to stop the Kent Wells Sherman House group from disturbing the lot at 247 N. Water St., which the non-profit group owns, or placing any equipment or structures on the property.

Graham ruled that the injunction request failed to meet any of those four criteria and was dismissed on those grounds.

"Plaintiffs have no ownership ... no legitimate claim, and no express permission to exclude Wells-Sherman from improving its lot," the magistrate's ruling states.

Architecture board meeting

Members of Save the Standing Rock Garden also sought an injunction against the Kent Architectural Review Board regarding a meeting in September that addressed the issue.

John Plough, the Kent attorney representing the group, argued the city violated Ohio public meetings laws by not appropriately advertising the architecture board meeting to the public. The architecture board's decision to grant the project a certificate of appropriateness was then considered by the planning commission when it voted in September to approve a site plan for the project.

Had Graham determined the city did not properly advertise the meeting, Plough argued the architecture board decision should have been thrown out.

However, in his ruling the magistrate wrote that Plough's argument appeared to be based on the requirements for advertising special meetings and not regularly scheduled meetings.

"These meetings were regular meetings, not special meetings. So advance notice to news media was not required," Graham wrote. "In spite of this, the architectural review board informed local news media before the meeting.

"Kent city has established a reasonable method to inform the public of the architectural review board's regular meetings," the magistrate's ruling states. "The meeting schedule was properly posted, pursuant to Kent (ordinance)" and state regulations.

Planning commission decision

Plough also argued for an injunction against the planning commission for having taken action twice within one year's time on a site plan for the project "without establishing newly discovered evidence of proof of changed conditions."

Graham determined that the two site plans considered by the commission — one first with the house set back 15 feet from the sidewalk and a second with the house set back 16 inches — were materially different and therefore the commission's actions were appropriate.

"The setback proposed in the second application was a material alteration from the first application," Graham wrote.

Timeline for move unclear

It's unclear if members of Save the Standing Rock Garden will appeal the magistrate's decision.

Lisa Regula Meyer, the first plaintiff named in the case, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Kent Community Development Department Director Bridget Susel said she believed the city followed all state and local laws regarding the actions of the planning commission and architecture board.

"I was very confident that it had been handled properly," Susel said.

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.

The Kent Wells Sherman House group had been given a deadline by city and university officials to move it from there by Dec. 1 or it would be demolished so as not to interfere with the operations of city snow plows.

Kent State spokesperson Emily Vincent said previously the university would not decide on razing the house until after the magistrate's decision.

"It is our hope that we can move forward with the transaction and relocation of the house," Vincent said. "Details still need to be worked out."

The Kent Wells Sherman House group also needs a final permit from the city to build the foundation on the North Water Street lot for the house, and that permit remains in the technical review process.

And the group also would have to obtain the necessary approvals to move the house in the public right of way and address any obstacles to the physical move — such as traffic lights — from where it sits on East College Avenue to the North Water Street site.

Add to all that red tape the fact that winter weather could slow any site construction and seeing the house move before January appears unlikely.

Roger Thurman, vice president of the Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. board, said previously he would like to work with Standing Rock Cultural Arts in the future to use the space cooperatively once the house is restored.

"Standing Rock technically was not party to the suit, but of course their supporters were," Thurman said. "We just want to do our project and have people give us a chance to see what our building can do for that side of town."

Resident of Kent December 08, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I think this was MY comment. Okay kiddies let's look closely and SEE what rule my COMMENTS violate: The real worry the residents at the SRCA building need to SEE is that once the house in there, the owners will want the SRCA building to come up to CODE NOW - or else be demolished FOR A PARKING LOT. Mark my words, sadly but this may truly happen!!!
Tina Puckett December 08, 2012 at 06:52 PM
This is the real point that gets missed. Cultural Arts has never been about a building. The only thing that happens in a building is gallery exhibitions, whatever gallery events are planned, and storage. All but the exhibitions can happen anywhere. Cultural Arts is about community, about people, the very thing everyone has missed in this whole issue. This comment from Resident of Kent adds absolutely nothing but negativity to the discussion and is not helpful to any dialogue. Raze the building. Make a parking lot. You cannot stop the heart of the arts community unless it wants to stop. Artists know they can continue anywhere they are. Art is always with them.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! December 08, 2012 at 06:55 PM
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot...
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! December 08, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Tina, that's the best thing I've read in days. Thank you.
Sue December 09, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Alec, the people who have raised their voices to oppose the move of the house are certainly passionate about it, but they are not most Kent residents. They are a vocal small group of residents. I admire their willingness to stand up for what they believe, even though I disagree with them on this issue. But they are not most people in the city. Most Kent residents have said nothing in public about the move of the house. I know many Kent residents who feel as I do, that the move of the house to the site will benefit the city. I think the move of the house can benefit SRCA also if they use the house and the grounds around it for community events and activities.

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