Allen Realty Co., in the middle of a court battle over demolition of a 120-year-old church building, now is being told by the city to erect additional barricades as a public safety measure in case the church collapses.
The city's chief building inspector on Tuesday ordered Allen Realty to enlarge a fenced area around the Old English Lutheran Church, 1040 N.H., and to install survey reference points on the church's face and belltower to monitor any movement in the structure.
The order came in a letter from Chief Building Inspector Gene Shaughnessy to Arly Allen, a stockholder in Allen Realty.
Under Shaughnessy's order, Allen Realty is required to move an existing solid wood fence now in front of the church out, across the sidewalk, to the curbline on New Hampshire Street. In addition, the city is requiring that Allen Realty cordon off three parallel parking spaces in front of the church and build a wooden pedestrian walkway in the street.
THE WORK must be completed by Sept. 10, or the city will install the fences and barricades and assess the costs against the property.
Allen Realty has been trying since 1988 to get a permit from the city to demolish the church. Two hearings before the Lawrence City Commission and two lawsuits later, Allen Realty still cannot legally demolish the structure.
In suits brought by the Kansas State Historical Society and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance seeking to stop demolition, Douglas County District Judge Ralph King earlier this month ruled that the city commission must hold another public hearing on the demolition request. He further ruled that Allen Realty must provide the state access for inspection of the church. On Monday, Allen Realty filed an appeal of the ruling.
The news from city hall on Tuesday was not welcomed by Allen.
"I'm being told I have to spend more money because that church is a public safety hazard," Allen said today. "I've been telling people the same thing all along, but I can't do anything about it."
Allen said the company already has spent $2,000 for a wooden fence that was erected as a safety measure earlier this summer. "Now I'm going to have to spend another couple thousand on fencing again," he said.
Ironically, the city's order came on the heels of an inspection Allen requested of the building.
ALLEN SAID that after King's ruling, he contacted Dressler Consulting Engineers Inc., an Overland Park firm that has been involved in historical preservation projects in the past. He said he asked Don Dressler, the head of the company, if he would be interested in preparing a professional engineering proposal for structural restoration of the church.
Dressler inspected the church a week ago while Allen was out of town on vacation. But instead of working on the engineering proposal, which Dressler estimated would take approximately six to eight weeks to complete, he wrote a letter to the city warning it about the church's "immediate public safety hazard."
Dressler's letter prompted a city inspection of the property on Tuesday morning, which resulted in Shaughnessy's order for new barricades.
Allen says that although he isn't pleased with the order, "at least it again reiterates what we've been trying to say, and that is that the church is unsafe."