Center St. Group seeks demolition injunction
By Darcie Loreno
T-G Staff Writer
The Center Street Historic District Association late Wednesday afternoon filed a request in Common Pleas Court for an injunction to prevent the Historical Society from demolishing its A.N. Myers home.
It follows an $85,000 bid the association made to the society in September and a counteroffer made by the society last week to sell the home for $1, keep the .183 acres of land and require the association to move the home by March 15.
During a press conference Wednesday at the Center Street home of association member and city councilwoman Ruth Detrow association members called the society’s offer “insincere” and voiced dismay.
“The whole point of our historic district is to maintain the historic homes, and if we have to move it someplace else it would be ridiculous and impossible,” Detrow said.
“The whole silly idea of an historical group tearing down an historic building instead of two historic groups working together to preserve and historic building just blows my mind.”
Center Street Historic District Association member
The complaint was filed about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday. Phil Leibolt, president of the Historical Society board of trustees who has served as the society’s spokesperson, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
The society purchased the home in 1998 for $186,000. Until recently, it was used for doctors’ offices and apartments. In July, the society applied to the Historic Preservation Board for demolition as a more financially viable option than renovation, citing the extensive interior deterioration and exterior alterations.
The board denied the application.
According to the board’s ordinance, at the end of a 60 day period following such a decision, an extension agreed upon by the city and the society could be made, and any public or private body could make a bona fide purchase or lease offer for the structure, “or the application for the demolition or moving shall be approved by the board.” No extension was made and the society was granted a demolition permit by the city.
The association’s complaint asks for the permit to be declared void and for an injunction permanently barring the society from demolishing the home. The association’s attorney, John Good, said the reason for the injunction request is the city’s demolition permit is not valid. He alleges the only entity that could lawfully grant it is the preservation board.
“Clearly, if no one made an offer, the board would approve it.” Good said. “But there was an offer made (Sept. 29). The question is what happens if an offer is made and rejected. The statue doesn’t say, in my opinion.”
Kyle Von Kamp, association secretary, read parts of a press release and a letter sent to the society. The letter said the society’s counteroffer, “entirely misses the point of our group’s main concern,” being the preservation of the historic streetscape. The complaint says it is the only example of colonial revival architecture in the district like the A.N. Myers home.
Von Kamp said it’s not the association’s preference to own a home, but to preserve it. He said tearing it down would be inconsistent with the society’s mission and would cause “irreparable harm” to the district.
He pointed out the home is inclued on the National Register of Historic Places with a “contributing” status. Rodney Mohr, association president who moved his home a few years ago, said it takes time and much work to do so. It would be costly doe to power lines and telephone poles. If it’s moved, it can’t be individually listed on the register, Von Kamp said.
Members also had other concerns, saying the society’s $1 million renovation estimate was too high. It was compiled by Simonson, which Mohr said mostly deals with commercial projects.
Other concerns included that the association offered volunteer hours and grant suggestions. The society previously said it was worried about liability with volunteer work and studied the same grants. Mohr said many of the home’s exterior characteristics can be restored, including the porch, because most homes on the street have had their porches reworked.
“The whole silly idea of an historical group tearing down an historic building instead of two historic groups working together to preserve an historic building just blows my mind,” Detrow said