A crowded room filled with supporters and detractors watched Wednesday as Kent City Council members approved a $15,000 loan to further the restoration project of the Wells-Sherman House.
The loan will fund part of the relocation and restoration of the Wells-Sherman House, a project created by the sustainability group, TransPORTAGE. The group aims to preserve the Wells-Sherman home because it was a gathering place for the Kent family in the 1800’s.
Although council reached a final decision, it is clear community members are still divided about the best usage for the vacant lot near Scribbles Coffee, on North Water Street, where the home will be relocated.
Many speakers at the meeting pleaded with the council to reconsider the land’s use, near Standing Rock Cultural Arts, current use as a green space and garden.
“I have two children who are involved with a lot of the Standing Rock Cultural Arts programs,” said Kent resident Jennifer Kline.
“It seems like from what I’ve been reading and hearing that two community organizations are being sort of pitted against each other, and being told that we need to cooperate,” Kline said. “But it really sounds like Standing Rock is being asked to do some unfair compromising at the hands of Kent State’s schedule.”
Kent State's Esplanade Extenstion project, which will directly link the university with downtown Kent, is the primary reason for the hasty pace of the Wells-Sherman relocation. The Wells-Sherman house sits on one of the properties that will be demolished for the Esplanade Extension.
At a council meeting earlier this month, TransPORTAGE said Kent State will extend support for the Wells-Sherman project, through funding and collaborations, pending a finalized plan and support from city council.
Preservationatists for both the Wells-Sherman building and the green space at Standing Rock Cultural Arts are fighting to keep mainstays in Kent, but this particular battle puts them on different sides.
Other Standing Rock supporters see the preservation of a building at the price of destroying a green space as counterproductive.
“This land has been used for 20 years by Standing Rock Cutlural Arts,” said Jeff Ingram, the director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, in a letter he submitted to the council. “Through the years, we’ve built rain gardens, prevented soil erosion, erected soil panels, and planted a garden, which has a variety of fruits and vegetables.”
Councilmembers Wayne Wilson and John Kuhar were the only dissenting votes against the measure to grant the loan to TransPORTAGE, citing financial burden for the council’s budget as the primary reason.
“The main reason I’m voting no is because when this first came to council, we were going to give moral support for this whole project,” Kuhar said. “Now, it’s turning into financial support.”
Councilwoman Tracy Wallach proposed an amendment to the original motion to turn the proposed $15,000 loan to TransPORTAGE into a match grant of the same value, but the motion was denied by a majority of the council. Councilmembers Robin Turner and Michael DeLeone were the only other affirmative votes on Wallach’s proposal.