The Kansas State Historical Society after reconsidering its earlier decision again has joined in the fight to stop demolition of a 120-year-old church building in Lawrence.
A petition and notice of appeal from KSHS was filed late Monday afternoon in Douglas County District Court in an effort to save the Old English Lutheran Church building, 1040 N.H. The historical society is seeking to have its case consolidated with a similar suit brought by the Lawrence Preservation Alliance.
The LPA and KSHS are suing the city of Lawrence, its Chief Building Inspector Gene Shaughnessy and Allen Realty Inc., owners of the church. Although the suits were filed separately, the LPA and KSHS both are asking that the Lawrence City Commission rehear a request by Allen Realty for a permit to allow demolition of the church.
THE COMMISSION, after a June 12 hearing, cleared the way for a permit to be issued to Allen Realty for demolition of the church, which was designed by noted Lawrence architect John Haskell and sits within the environs of the Douglas County Courthouse, a nationally registered historic site.
The decision by the historical society to file suit is a change in direction from a week ago when Dick Pankratz, director of the KSHS historic preservation department, said the agency would not take legal action to stop the demolition.
"It is not our function to jump in and try to save every single structure in the state that might be somewhat historical," Pankratz said June 18.
Ramon Powers, KSHS executive director, this morning said that a departmental re-evaluation led to the decision to file the suit.
"OUR FIRST reaction was that (the city commisison's action) was the appropriate resolution," Powers said. "State law provides that the local governing body has the opportunity to determine the prudence and feasibility of alternatives to demolition.
"But after looking at how the process worked . . . we felt the intent of the law, particularly as reflected in the appeals court decision, had not been met."
The LPA and KSHS pointed out that during the June 12 hearing on the demolition request, the commission did not allow any groups the opportunity to review feasible and prudent alternatives to the demolition of the church nor did it allow time to review and respond to evidence presented on behalf of Allen Realty.
During the hearing, representatives of Allen Realty presented the commission with reports from engineers it had hired to evaluate the structural integrity of the building. Those reports indicated that it was not economically feasible to renovate the structure.
IN ITS FILING, the historical society asks that restraining orders be issued prohibiting the city from issuing a demolition permit and restraining Allen Realty from "damaging, destroying or demolishing" the church.
In addition, KSHS is asking that the court order the city commission to rehear the request for the permit, that the LPA and Lawrence Historic Resources Commission both be allowed to review all of the written materials presented by Allen Realty, and that they be able to testify about the feasibility and prudence of alternatives to demolition.
KSHS also is seeking an order from the court requiring that Allen Realty provide access to the church for the LPA and the Historic Resources Commission.
A hearing on the LPA suit is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday in Douglas County District Court. KSHS is asking that its request to consolidate the cases be heard at that time.