Thursday, December 29, 2011

City sued by local preservation advocate, Mike Morgan for failure to follow its own procedures and guidelines!

Photo: Hamilton county Auditor website
Well-known local Preservation advocate, and attorney, Mike Morgan has filed a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati in an effort to compel the city to follow its own legal procedures and guidelines. The lawsuit is an effort to save a property he owns that continues to deteriorate because of the city of Cincinnati failure to issue permits and approvals that would allow him to save the historic Over the Rhine property on Walnut Street


The six-count complaint has been filed against the City of Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board; Charles C Graves, director of city planning; City of Cincinnati, and the office of the Urban Conservator, Larry Harris

The suit by Mr. Morgan involves his property at 1623-1625 Walnut Street. The six-count complaint alleges:

Count 1:
SEC. 1435-13(b) CMC REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ISSUANCE OF A CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS TO CONDUCT CONSTRUCTION WORK ON 1623-1625 WALNUT ST

Count 2:
SEC. 1435-15 CMC REQUIRES APPROVAL OF SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE APPLICATION FOR COA AND SEC. 1435-17 REQUIRES ISSUANCE OF A DECISION BY THE HCB

Count 3:
RESPONDENTS-DEFENDANTS HAVE KNOWINGLY AND INTENTIONALLY DENIED RELATOR-PLAINTIFF DUE PROCESS OF LAW

Count 4:
ACTIONS IN THE CASE AT BAR ARE MERELY ONE EXAMPLE OF A KNOWN AND ONGOING ABUSE OF POWER BY THE HCB, A PATTERN OF UNCONSTITUTIONALLY ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS ACTS AND OMISSIONS, AND VIOLATIONS OF LAW COMMITTED BY THE OFFICE OF URBAN CONSERVATOR.

Count 5:
RESPONDENTS-DEFENDANTS REFUSE TO FULFILL AN OBLIGATION TO ENFORCE SEC. 1435-25 AND SEC. 1451-13 CMC

Count 6
THE OVER-THE-RHINE HISTORIC GUIDELINES ARE VOID FOR VAGUENESS

To overview the case, the suit essentially alleged that the city via the Historic Conservation Board and planning department have failed to follow its own city building codes, and its own set procedures regarding notifications, failed to provide proper recourse for property owners to remediate building problems and essentially resulted in further damage to their properties because they are prevented from effecting repairs that would prevent further deterioration.

The suit also alleges that there is ambiguity in the ordinances and procedures and that it is part of an on-going pattern of selective enforcement and that those named including Charles Graves and city solicitors are aware of this and have failed to enforce proper procedures and the ordinances of the city as written.

Mr. Morgan, who is an attorney, has taken this action because he is essentially prevented from fixing his property and it continues to deteriorate. In a recent email conversation he stated his overall goal.

“I hope to force the HCB to function within the boundaries of the law. They are supposed to be both restricted by and bound to honor the guidelines established for each historic district. My lawsuit makes a challenge to one aspect of the Over-the-Rhine guidelines, but this is only an example of a much broader problem. By making the law up as it goes along, the HCB both permits demolition of buildings that should be saved and makes appropriate redevelopment of properties unnecessarily difficult. No property owner in this city can possess a reasonable expectation of what will or will not be permitted in a rehab until the HCB arbitrarily concocts whatever law they decide to manufacture in your particular circumstance on that particular day. They refuse to be bound by the governing guidelines. They refuse to create or be bound by their own precedent and, in some instances, change positions in the same case from one hearing to the next. This does a disservice to everyone. It makes it ridiculously -- and I believe unconstitutionally -- cumbersome to do the right thing with historic buildings, and far to easy to destroy them.”

He also pointed out that this is a “taxpayer action” filed on behalf of the citizens of this City. Additional plaintiffs may be welcome.

3 comments:

Dale from Avon said...

I imagine a lot of decisions are done on a case by case basis.
A little off topic but, what happens when a person is stuck with an historic property in a local historic district, can not afford to fix it, and even though it has been for sale no one is interested in it because it is too expensive to fix and its use is limited. What happens then?
I can see why some buildings get demolished. Sometimes the preservation people do not see the underlying facts of reality - myself included.

nina smith said...

This man is my hero! I hope he wins! I have been criminally charged for restoring my own historic house. Check out my blog for the full story.

www.1914foursquare.com

nina smith said...

I would be interested in contacting Mike Morgan if anyone could offer contact info. My email is listed on my profile. Thanks.