FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2020
Communications Manager, Landmarks Illinois
Landmarks Illinois celebrates appellate court’s decision in lawsuit to prevent unlawful demolition of historic Rock Island County Courthouse
CHICAGO – Landmarks Illinois is celebrating a positive development in our ongoing lawsuit against the Rock Island County Board and Rock Island County Public Building Commission to prevent the proposed demolition of the historic Rock Island County Courthouse. In its opinion issued Thursday, July 16, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Landmarks Illinois’ argument that Rock Island County cannot defy state agencies and must comply with the Illinois State Historic Resources Preservation Act in its pursuit to demolish the historic courthouse.
The opinion stated the county cannot proceed with demolition until it undergoes the proper consultation process with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as required by state law. In addition, the Appellate Court made clear that private parties like Landmarks Illinois and its co-plaintiffs have standing to sue to ensure that public officials follow the law.
“Landmarks Illinois is pleased the Appellate Court determined that the county must follow state preservation law, affirming the public’s right to be consulted on the future of their courthouse,” said Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois. “We stand ready to be a voluntary resource to the county to find a preservation solution benefiting the people of Rock Island County, which we believe is available and feasible.”
In February 2019, Landmarks Illinois joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rock Island Preservation Society, the Moline Preservation Society, the Broadway Historic District Association and local residents Fred Shaw and Diane Oestreich, to file a lawsuit against the Rock Island County Board and Rock Island County Public Building Commission to prevent the county agencies from illegally tearing down the publicly owned courthouse. The case was dismissed in March 2019 by Peoria County 10th Circuit Court, a decision Landmarks Illinois and fellow plaintiffs appealed. Landmarks Illinois’ pro bono attorneys from Jenner & Block presented oral arguments to the Illinois Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa in November 2019.
Since originally filing its lawsuit in 2019, Landmarks Illinois has remained committed to finding a common-sense, preservation solution for the historic Rock Island County Courthouse and has pursued working with county officials to avoid prolonged litigation.
Earlier this year, there was an offer to purchase the historic building and a proposal to convert it into a federal courthouse, at no expense to the county. Landmarks Illinois urges county officials to consider existing private reuse proposals such as these that avoid demolition of the 123-year-old courthouse and benefit the community.
About Landmarks Illinois
We are People Saving Places for People. Landmarks Illinois is a membership-based nonprofit organization serving the people of Illinois. We inspire and empower stakeholders to save places that matter to them by providing free guidance, practical and financial resources and access to strategic partnerships. For more information, visit www.Landmarks.org.
Illinois Appellate Court Opinion July 16, 2020