The question of whether a 120-year-old Lawrence church should be demolished is going back to the Lawrence City Commission.
Douglas County District Judge Ralph M. King, in a ruling issued late Wednesday and released this afternoon, sent the 2-year-old dispute back to the Lawrence City Commission for a "full public hearing."
Noting that historic preservation is the "policy of the state of Kansas and should be among the highest priorities," King said the city failed in its statuatory and contractual obligations when it cleared the way for demolition of the Old English Lutheran Church, 1040 N.H.
On June 12, the commission held a public hearing on a demolition permit request filed by Allen Realty Inc., owners of the church building. The hearing was ordered by the Kansas Court of Appeals, which earlier had ruled that the commission acted improperly in denying a demolition permit requested by Allen Realty in 1988.
After the hearing, the commission found, in a 3-2 vote, that no "feasible or prudent alternatives" to demolition existed. The commission relied mostly on testimony from Arly Allen, an Allen Realty stockholder who presented reports from engineers and architects whose studies said the building was beyond salvation.
At that meeting, commissioners refused a request by the Lawrence Preservation Alliance asking them to postpone their decision. The LPA said it needed time to inspect the church to determine whether it thought the church could be saved.
THE LPA and the Kansas State Historical Society sued over the commission's ruling.
"A full and fair hearing of an item entitled to the highest priorities of government should include both sides and not just one, however persuasive that one side may be, when there are people who want to be heard and who have diligently requested time and access to develop relevant information," King wrote.
In addition to finding the commission's decision "arbitrary and capricious," King also ordered that Allen Realty allow the state or its designee be given access to the church property for inspection.