Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Open Letter to Kent City Council

Dear City Council,

I’m writing to you once again concerning the proposed moving of the Sherman Wells House to the green space at 247 North Water Street.  This proposed move has hit a roadblock as the planning commission voted to not approve the site plan discussed at their last meeting, and it is my opinion that this delay- together with Kent State’s allowance of land on College Street for temporary location of the house- gives the entire community time to slow down and think about the best use and placement for this historic home.  As the preservation of this house is to be a public good for the benefit of the community according to Kent Wells Sherman House, Incorporated and the contingent university funding, it seems only right that the community should have input in this matter.  I appreciate the planning commission’s decision to listen to the community desires and the need for something better than a “marriage of convenience” that putting the house on 247 North Water Street appears to be.  

The city council has shown their support for historic preservation through the granting of a $15,000 unsecured loan of which even council members questioned the fiscal responsibility.  Because of this, I propose that the city would do best to make sure that their investment is on as solid a financial footing as possible.  My concern is that this that this investment is not lost to hurried planning and poor community support.  The city could do this by allowing city land to be used for the permanent location of the house in a suitable location where the house does not face vocal opposition.  Currently, the city owns 28 appropriately sized lots within a mile of the Sherman Wells house’s present location; the usage of one of these lots would allow Kent Wells Sherman House, Incorporated to save the $21,000 cost of buying land (money which they could then use to offset the increased cost of moving the house).  Some of these sites are on North Water Street, as well, so the economic renewal of North Water Street could still be a benefit seen from the situation of the house in that neighborhood.  This commitment to historic preservation from city council could be in the form of an inexpensive lease to Kent Wells Sherman House, Incorporated, similar to what is granted to Haymaker Farmers’ Market for their space.  

Historic preservation, green space, and the arts are all concerns in developing and redeveloping cities, such as Kent right at this moment.  The investment in downtown Kent has the potential to be extremely beneficial to the entire region, but this process has also seen many losses in historic buildings, and little easily accessible green space other than right along the river, which can be difficult and/or treacherous to use for children and people with limited mobility- the groups that can benefit most from green space.  In the recent past, the arts have found good commercial support in the redevelopment of Kent, but classes, workshops, and non-commercial arts have not been major focus of this energy.  At the same time, these three aspects (historic preservation, green space, and the arts) are considerable draws for a community and add value to a city that is seen in economic and non-economic ways.  Finding an alternative location for this house and showing simultaneous support for all three portions (historic preservation, green space, and the arts) would be a great win-win solution for the entire city, and council assisting in this endeavor would show council’s willingness to put the good of the city over disputes that put any one of these issues as more important than the other.

Lisa Regula Meyer

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