Thursday, February 12, 2009

Illinois Court Ruling Could Impact Historic Districts Nationwide

Could Cincinnati's Historic Preservation Ordinances and districts be in Danger?
Last Friday, the Illinois Appellate Court described the designation criteria in Chicago's 41-year-old landmarks law as "vague" and then ordered a Cook County court to decide whether the ordinance is unconstitutional. The appeals court opinion went on to describe the designation criteria as "unconstitutionally vague."

Landmark Districts and Historic Preservation Districts are established all across the country as a means of protecting historic structures from teardown or redevelopment in ways inconsistent with the Historic Character of the neighborhood.

Preservationist from across the country have urged the city to seek review by the Illinois Supreme Court. "Chicago's landmarks law has designation criteria similar to those of many other cities and towns across the country," says Paul Edmondson, National Trust general counsel. He notes that a number of courts around the country have upheld preservation ordinances against similar attacks.

Were a precedent set, it could be used by developers in other parts of the country to potentionally circumvent Historic Preservation Ordinances. Cincinnati's Preservation Ordinances are much weaker than many localities and this should cause concern to local Preservationist and the city of Cincinnati, that the time has come for comprehensive review local of Preservation districts and ordinances and see if any "loopholes" or "vagueness issues' in the ordinances should be addressed in order to avoid lawsuits and legal challenges.

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