Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Historic Preservationists are Concerned That Recent Court Action in Illinois Might Hamper Efforts to Maintin Historic Buildings and Neighborrhods

Today's New York Times reports that the Illinois Supreme Court is considering accepting a case concerning the rights of citizens to challenge historic preservation ordinances.  Here is an excerpt from the article:
A state appellate court sided with Ms. Mrowka and Al Hanna, a resident of Lincoln Park, another neighborhood where a section has landmark status, finding that Chicago’s four-decades-old ordinance for designating landmarks used “vague, ambiguous and overly broad” terms to sort out what buildings and neighborhoods should be protected from change or demolition.

The City of Chicago appealed that decision this month, and both sides are waiting to hear if the Illinois Supreme Court will take the case.

City lawyers say that if the ruling stands, any of the city’s landmarks — except perhaps those that are protected through separate federal or state programs — could have their protected status challenged, said Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city’s law department.

Advocates of preservation worry that the ruling might ultimately threaten popular landmarks like Wrigley Field and the works of the architects like Louis Sullivan and Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. The outcome could also have legal consequences for other Illinois cities with similar ordinances. And while it would set no legal precedent outside the state, the case threatens to embolden opponents with like-minded challenges, given the similarities of many landmark ordinances, advocates say.

Cities and towns across Illinois, as well as preservation advocates from places like Cleveland, New York and Pittsburgh, have filed court documents supporting Chicago’s appeal.

“Once the door opens, other people will be making the same argument,” said Julia H. Miller, special counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The potential for havoc is there.”

For the entire story, see "Challenge to Landmark Law Worries Preservationists" in the March 24, 2009, issue of the New York Times.



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