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KENT CHURCH DOESN'T WANT TO MOVE FOR KENT SAFETY ADMINISTRATION BUILDING PROJECT
July 23, 2014 4:00AM
You can't fight city hall.
The Kent Church of Christ is learning that all too well as members resist the city's advances to acquire their property at 319 S. DePeyster St. to make way for the new taxpayer-funded, $18 million Safety Administration Building project planned on College Avenue.
The city is looking to acquire somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 parcels for the building slated for completion in late 2016. Those property owners not interested in selling will likely lose their land anyway by way of eminent domain.
But members of Church of Christ are not interested in leaving the building their congregation has called home since the mid 1950s.
"We understand that if the city wants this property, they're going to take it. There's nothing we can do to stop it," said Greg Evans, a church trustee and member since 1993. "But if it comes to that point and time, how do we hold the congregation together, and how do we let go?"
The small congregation has fewer than 30 members -- but that's more than called the church home 20 years ago. Some have attended the nondenominational church their entire lives. Being a few blocks away from the Kent State University campus, they also draw a small group of students each year.
The building, Evans said, is what brings their core group together.
"It's just very hard to look at the members who have been here and tell them there's nothing we can do," Evans said. "It's heartbreaking."
The structure was built in 1900 and operated as the Church of Brethren until 1956, when it became the Kent Church of Christ. However, it has no claims to historical significance, trustees said.
Michael O'Flaherty, the church's treasurer and a trustee, said the city has been "cordial" with members, but he fears there's little chance their church will remain where it is now.
The trustees, who own the 4,600-square-foot building, say they've been offered $210,000 for the property appraised at $175,000 this spring, plus some more for moving expenses. Negotiations are ongoing, however.
"That, to me, is an astronomical amount of money," Evans said. "But it's not about the money."
Minister Steve Chapman said renting space at a suitable commercial property in Kent would cost about $500,000. To outright purchase land plus a building would cost close to $1 million.
"So it may sound like a decent offer, but when you start looking at commercial properties or just to be able to replicate what we have here, that's the dilemma," O'Flaherty said. "The cost of real estate in Kent is crazy."
"We're just kind of feeling like the little people here," he added.
So far, City Council has approved the purchase of six properties for $991,000. Four of those properties are located on College Avenue. The other two are on South DePeyster Street and Tonkin Court.
If forced to move, church trustees said they'd meet in a member's home if they have to in order to stay together. Another option could be to relocate closer to Brimfield on S.R. 43, Evans said, but then they'd lose their potential for foot traffic they enjoy with their proximity near downtown Kent.
"It's a very tough time for us," Evans said. "God will get us through whether we stay together or disperse. We just want to do our job to serve Him as best as we can do."
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or
Facebook:Jeremy Nobile, Record-Courier