The Society sent the following announcement to supporters:
Edgewater Historical Society and Museum
Important Message To Our Members, Friends and Supporters:
The Edgewater Historical Society and Museum (EHS) and several board members were sued last year in the amount of $1.1 million for our efforts to support a proposal to landmark an “orange” rated house in Edgewater. Continuous efforts have been underway to dismiss this suit, but without success so far. We have been confident that we have a strong case, and that we were only exercising our free speech rights, in the democratic traditions we have come to accept in Edgewater.
But litigation continues, and we are not even at a trial stage. We are fortunate to have excellent representation and we received considerable pro bono support up until now. We are now at a critical juncture because EHS must now financially support all future legal representation. This has serious consequences for our community.
Should we go to trial and lose, the museum will be forced to close and we would probably have to dissolve the Edgewater Historical Society; in addition, our board members might be liable for considerable personal financial risk.
Should we go to trial and win, the future is likewise bleak, because the high cost of defending this case could generate legal fees that would jeopardize the continued viability and existence of the museum. We cannot be certain of recovering legal fees, even if we win!
In the near future, we expect a decision on whether this case will be dismissed or will go to trial.
We are urgently concerned about the future of the museum and EHS. We are seeking help to support our legal effort (with pro bono legal aid). If you know of individuals or organizations that could provide such assistance, please contact us as soon as possible.
The outcome of this suit has far reaching and chilling prospects for Edgewater and any community group that advocates or participates in community discussions about planning, zoning, and . Enclosed is a statement of the facts about the lawsuit.
We are very proud of EHS and the museum as an important community institution; we want to continue to serve Edgewater. We hope you agree. We will keep you up to date as this proceeds.
Edgewater Historical Society and Museum
Statement of Facts About Lawsuit:
Statement of Facts About Lawsuit Re: 6018 N. Kenmore :
The Edgewater Historical Society and Museum, and four board members (Betty Mayian, Leroy Blommaert, Kathy Gemperle, and Thom Greene) have been sued by the owner of the single family property at 6018 N. Kenmore for allegedly illegally interfering with the sale of the property to a condominium developer; the plaintiff is seeking $1.15 million in damages.(1) This was subsequently reduced to $600,000 on June 23, 2009.
EHS had taken a position to support the land marking of the building which is “orange” rated according to the City of Chicago . Under the city’s landmark ordinance, an “orange” rated building is the second highest rating and allows certain legal protections including provisions for requesting delaying demolition permits.(2)
EHS had also supported a plan presented to the community by Alderman Smith that she received that had been developed by the City Department of Planning staff. That plan included the property at 6018 N. Kenmore in a Landmark District along with several other buildings in that vicinity. EHS and some other community organizations and individuals supported that proposal at the Alderman’s Zoning and Land Use Committee. The proposal failed.
Attorneys for EHS have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit based on, among other reasons, the protections granted by the Citizen’s Participation Act (CPA) which was passed in 2007. CPA was passed to protect individuals and organizations from retaliatory and intimidating lawsuits, when legitimately expressing their first amendment rights in matters of zoning, development, etc. Sen. was the chief sponsor. The Act was supported by all the state legislators who represented Edgewater. (3)
EHS is being represented by attorney Richard F. Friedman and the law firm Neal & Leroy, LLC. All matters and discussions pertaining to the lawsuit are being handled by our attorneys.
Hearings on the motions to dismiss have been ongoing; we anticipate some resolution by the end of the summer.
Information on EHS and preservation efforts is available at www.edgewaterhistory.org.
The membership of EHS will be kept informed of the progress of the lawsuit.
EHS Board of Directors
(1) Plaintiff Brigatta Riedel, Trustee of the Walter and Marie Kraemer Living Trust; filed on September 16, 2008.
(2)From Preservation Chicago Web site: When a demolition permit for a Red or Orange rated building is applied for, the Landmarks Commission is notified and the demolition permit is posted on the city’s public web site. Once posted, a 90-day hold is placed on the demolition permit, although the city may release the hold sooner, under certain circumstances. During that time, research of the historic and/or architectural merit is done to determine if the building should receive Landmark Protection. Alternatives to demolition can also be explored.
(3) Senator Ronen, and Representatives Osterman and Harris.
The Society has extremely limited financial resources, and does not have the financial wherewithal to survive this suit, even should it prevail. Anyone who would like to contribute with pro bono legal assistance or financial contributions is urged to contact the Edgewater Historical Society and Museum, 5358 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60640. Tel: 773-506-4849