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City Code Change/ Involuntary Landmarking

The City Council approved changes to the City Code regarding Involuntary Landmarking of properties at the May 14 City Council Meeting. Involuntary Landmarking allowed a member of the public to nominate any property within the City to be considered for designation as a local historical landmark, which would subject the property to the City’s Historic Preservation Code without an owner’s consent. The code change removed Involuntary Landmarking and now requires owner consent to nominate a property for historic landmark designations.

The City's review of its landmark process was initiated after an attempt to designate a home on Hawthorne Lane a landmark to prevent its demolition. The owners bought the home, advertised as a teardown to expand their yard. Though City Council concluded the home no longer possessed the "integrity of design, materials and workmanship to make it worthy of preservation or rehabilitation", the process delayed the owner’s demolition plans for nearly a year. This debate led to questions on whether Involuntary Landmarking should be reconsidered so as not to take away rights of property owners.

Highland Park’s historic preservation ordinance was adopted in 1984 with the goal of preserving Highland Park’s unique history. The ordinance created a process to designate houses as local historic landmarks. Beginning in the early 1980s, homeowners nominated their homes as landmarks, protecting the houses from demolition or insensitive modifications and preserving architectural treasures all over town. New regulations were added in 2005 to allow a home to be designated as a local landmark without the owner’s consent, also known as Involuntary Landmarking. This tool helped preserve one of the City’s most impressive estates on Sheridan Road, which was in danger of being forfeited to the Federal Government and sold for redevelopment. Over the last decade, however, the Involuntary Landmarking provisions in the City Code have not played a role in saving any endangered properties.

The City of Highland Park maintains a strong culture of preservation and remains a leader in local historic preservation in the Chicago region. Highland Park currently has approximately 70 locally landmarked homes.