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Historic landmark designation for church could lead to litigation.

Byline: Molly M. Fleming

OKLAHOMA CITY First Christian Church's historic landmark overlay will be considered Wednesday by the Historic Preservation Commission.

If the commission approves the historic landmark overlay for the dome-shaped church,the City Council will have the final decision on the designation.

The landmarkoverlay was on the council's March 12 docket, but it was tabled until April 9. Councilman Ed Shadid asked that the overlay be put on the council's docket.

The 32-acre, four-building site sits at 3700 N. Western Ave., which is not in one of the city's design districts.Those districtsare Bricktown, Urban Design (Uptown 23rd Street, Plaza District), Historic Preservation, Scenic River Overlay, Stockyards and Downtown.

Ifthe building were in a design district, an alteration or demolition permit would be reviewed by that district's commission.

Granting the property a landmark overlay would mean that any alterations or demolitions would be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. As it stands now, a demolition or an alteration-type permit that was requested for the property could be reviewed by the city staff and not in the public process.

First Christian Church as an entity still owns the property. The Rev. John Malget said at the March 12 council meeting that the church wants to sell the property to someone who will keep the buildings. But he asked that the designation not be approved.

"We still believe we are the church of tomorrow, but we're not tied to a building," he said at the meeting. "Putting this designation on this property will cause some problems for someone that wants to keep the property."

At Wednesday's meeting, the agenda shows an executive session meeting where the commission will be briefed on possible litigation regarding the historic landmark designation.

Attorney David Box represented the church at the council meeting. He said hehas not threatened litigation against the city on behalf of the church. He said he will advise his client of its options after the Historic Preservation Commission meeting.

He said the designation is an overreach by a city body that is notcomposedof elected officials like the City Council.

By city ordinance, a historic landmark designation can be initiated by the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning Commission, the property owner, or by a majority of the property owners in a district.

Box said at the council meeting that the designation would reduce the potential buyer pool.

"The price that someone will pay will go down," he said. "This building has been for sale for three years now. This isn't about demolition. It's about property rights."

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Publication:Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Article Type:Landmark overview
Date:Apr 2, 2019
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