Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 18, 2019

PA Appeals Court Dismisses Appeal Over Historic Designation as Moot

This post was authored by Rachel Silverstein, Touro Law Center

A Philadelphia ordinance authorized the Philadelphia Historical Commission (the “Commission”) to designate historical sites as the Commission saw fit for the city. Under the ordinance, no one could alter or destroy a site deemed historical by the Commission. The Commission sought to designate as an historical site a Philadelphia residence. The property owners, the Barnes’ family, had owned the property for 115 years. Barnes did not want the property designated as a historical site because his mother wanted to turn the property into a funeral parlor. Barnes and O’Brien, Barnes’ attorney, opposed the property’s nomination. Still, with a 6 to 4 vote, the Commission designated the property because it satisfied the criteria of the ordinance. Barnes appealed the Commission’s decision. The trial court affirmed. Barnes appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The Commission then filed to dismiss the appeal on mootness grounds. Barnes argued that the Commission’s designation “affected only the buildings, and not the land . . .” The ordinance required that the Commission may only approve altering or demolishing a historic building or construct a building in a historic zone. The court interpreted the ordinance to allow not only specific buildings, but also surrounding land to be included. Therefore, the case was dismissed as moot.

Barnes v. Philadelphia Historical Commission, 216 A.3d 590 (PA Commnwlth 10/7/2019)

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