Chicago Landmark Ordinance Case Returns to Circuit Court

by Michael R. Allen

The legal battle to to overturn Chicago’s 42-year-old landmark ordinance continues, with a chilling effect on designation in Chicago and cautious attention elsewhere. Two property owners in local historic districts sued the city a few years ago on the grounds that the ordinance was an “arbitrary and capricious” exercise of city police power. Last year, after the plaintiffs appealed a Circuit Court ruling against them, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the ordinance was indeed unconstitutional due to vague wording. The City of Chicago appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which denied the appeal and remanded the case to Circuit Court.

This week Chicago Tribune critic Blair Kamin reported that the case is headed for a hearing on August 27. There is a possibly hopeful twist: the circuit judge has split the case into two parts, one on the ordinance and one on the enabling ordinances for the two districts themselves. The August 27 hearing is on that second part only.  The judge has placed the challenge to the Chicago landmark ordinance on hold.

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