Lawsuit filed to protect historic Myers house in Ashland
By Al Lawrence
New Journal Correspondent
Ashland - The Center Street Historic District Association has filed a lawsuit in Common Pleas Court seeking an injunction to block the demolition of the historic Alva N. Myers house, 408 Center St.
The association took the action today in response to what attorney John Good said was a final offer from the Ashland County Historical Society, which owns the home.
According to Good, the association received a a letter dated Oct. 24 in which the society offered to sell the building for $1 if the association would move it off the site by March 15. The letter gave the association until 4 p.m. Wednesday to respond.
Several weeks ago, the association offered $85,000 for the house and land as part of a procedure established by local preservation regulations. Good said the Historical Society indicated orally at that time that it would respond with a counter offer because the appraisal was too low.
“This (Oct. 24) offer is not a counter offer at all,” he said. “They’ve told us we can jack up the house and move it by March 15. They told us to pound salt is what it comes down to.”
The controversy over the house began this summer, when the Historical Society submitted a request to the Ashland Historical Preservation Board to tear down the home. The society claimed it would cost $1 million to fix up for public use. The Preservation Board authorized by city ordinance to review proposed structural changes in the area between Maple St. And Vernon and Morgan Avenues, denied the request Aug 2.
The ordinance gave the board 60 days to review the condition of the building, alternative uses, potential return on investment by rehabilitation efforts to secure profitable new owners or leases and the impact of demolition on adjoining structures and the integrity of the area as a whole.
After 60 days (or an agreed upon extension) a bona fide purchase or lease offer for the building can be made by the city, board or other public or private body. Or, the preservation board shall approve demolition.
The lawsuit disputes an Historical Society claim it has studied renovation costs and alternatives and alleges a demolition permit the city issued this summer is illegal because a permit for a structure within the district must be issued by the Preservation Board.
The action says the damage the association and community would suffer would be “massive and irreparable” and seeks to permanently prevent the house from being torn down.
Kyle vonKamp, association secretary, pointed out during a press conference Wednesday the society bought the home in 1998 to save it from demolition by another buyer. He also presented copies of letters in which the Ohio Historical Society rejected a request to have the home removed from the National Register of Historic Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation offering to help find alternatives to demolition.
VonKamp and other association officials said the point of saving the Myers home is to keep it in the historic district because of the architecture - and the significance of the families that lived there. Moving it off the street, they said, would significantly reduce the historic value. They said a preservation architect has estimated rehabilitation costs at $500,000. The association has offered to help with grants and fundraising.
Good noted important visitors to Ashland are often brought into town on Center Street because it is the city’s nicest looking entryway.
It’s important to the community not only for what it was in the past but also for the future.” he said.