Landmark Wars Heat Up in Illinois Circuit Court

May 08, 2012

Chicago SkylineHow would you like the Chicago neighborhood you reside in to be considered a landmark? Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? One would think living in a district deemed a landmark would make a homeowner feel kind of… well, special.

That is not always the case though. And such a case may be headed to the Illinois Supreme Court when all is said and done.

On May 3, Circuit Judge Sophia Hall dismissed a 2009 state appellate court opinion stating that language used in Chicago’s landmark ordinance is unconstitutionally vague.

It all began when Carol Mrowka discovered that the East Village neighborhood she lives in near Wicker Park had been crowned as a Chicago landmark.

“Sure, it’s a nice neighborhood,” said Ms. Mrowka, a real estate agent. “The basic style of the buildings is pretty, but this is not a landmark.”

On March 6, 2009, Carol Mrowka and Albert C. Hanna, a real estate executive living in the landmark Arlington-Deming District in Lincoln Park, filed a 20-count complaint against the City of Chicago, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks Ordinance and several city official alleging that the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance was invalid on its face, and as it applied to plaintiff’s respective properties, which can be read here. The basis of the complaint was that the seven standards that determine whether a site becomes a Chicago landmark are too vague.

The standards are characterized as:

  1. Critical part of the City’s heritage
  2. Significant historic event
  3. Significant person
  4. Important architecture
  5. Important architect
  6. Distinctive theme as a district
  7. Unique visual feature

Two of the seven criteria must be met for the Commission to grant landmark status to a site.

The complaint raised the ire of landmark preservationists, including Jonathan Fine, the executive director of Preservation Chicago, a nonprofit group.

“The fact is, Chicago could not exist without its landmark ordinance,” Fine said in 2009. “It’s the line that holds us back from the Neanderthals.”

With Judge Hall’s ruling, historic preservationists like Fine feel cautiously optimistic, but expect an appeal.

As does attorney for the plaintiffs Thomas Ramsdell who is determined to appeal the decision.

“We’re disappointed in her ruling. The most I can say is we strongly disagree with her reading and interpretation of the binding Illinois appellate court decision of 2009,” said Ramsdell in a report by Blair Kamin.

Albert C. Hall believes the landmark status given to his Lincoln Park neighborhood promotes segregationist zoning laws. Ramsdell argues that hindering the spread of new large houses is the true motive behind the districts being granted landmark status according to a report by Blair Kamin

What do you think about the controversy over the city’s landmark ordinance?

About The Author

Read All Stories By Mitch Levinson

Mitch Levinson is the author of “Internet Marketing: The Key to Increased New Home Sales” published by BuilderBooks. He is an Internet marketing expert with expertise in search engine optimization, website development, email marketing, social media and CRM consulting services. He is known for creating effective programs that can be tracked through analytics to prove effectiveness and ROI. Mitch is founder and president of MLC New Home Marketing and MLC FlatFee Realty, as well as managing partner of mRELEVANCE, LLC, a Marketing, Communication, Interactive agency with offices in Chicago and Atlanta. He currently leads the Chicago team. A Multi-Million Dollar Sales Producer who earned an MBA in Computer Information Systems and eCommerce, he brings a unique perspective and experience to the field of real estate communications. Mitch combines the two interests in order to help home builders and developers gain a competitive advantage through the Internet and technology. When he isn’t behind a computer, he enjoys participating in sports and coaching his kids’ teams. Mitch resides in Arlington Heights, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago, with his family, which includes two rambunctious labs. Visit my Google+ profile.

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