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Landmarks Joins City of Chicago’s Appeal of Landmark Decision

by Anne E. Nelson, General Counsel
March 11, 2009

On March 11, 2009, Landmarks joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Cleveland Restoration Society, sixty-three Illinois municipalities and other organizations in filing an amicus curiae motion before the Supreme Court of Illinois in the case Hanna v. City of Chicago.  In Hanna, two Chicago property owners challenged the constitutionality of the city’s landmark ordinance creating a historic district that included the property they owned.  The property owners were successful at the appellate court level.

The brief urged the Supreme Court of Illinois to accept the City of Chicago’s Leave to Appeal and to reverse the appellate court’s decision that Chicago’s landmarks ordinance was “vague, ambiguous, and overly broad,” and that, as such, the ordinance amounted to an unconstitutional delegation of discretionary authority by the Chicago City Council to the Landmarks Commission.

The brief made the following four arguments:

  1.  The appellate court’s opinion threatens the validity of similar laws and ordinances throughout Illinois;
  2. The United States District Court upheld the constitutionality of Chicago’s landmark ordinance against a vagueness challenge in 1977 and 1994;
  3. In other states, courts have overwhelmingly rejected vagueness challenges to criteria for designating landmarks and historic districts in local preservation ordinances; and
  4. Courts have upheld preservation ordinances in 24 states and the District of Columbia against vagueness and unlawful delegation claims.


On March 24, 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court denied the motion of the amici to file a state in support of the City of Chicago’s petition.  While disappointing, the filing was still successful in calling the court’s attention to the many cities and organizations from around the nation that support the City of Chicago’s position.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633