Historic buildings bill on tap

A bill designed to protect two buildings in downtown Wichita has a legislative hearing this week.

Last year a citizen group gathered signatures on a petition that would prevent the City of Wichita from disposing of two downtown buildings without an approving vote of a majority of citizens. Based on having the required number of valid signatures, the petition was certified as valid. But the city sued to have the petition thrown out, contending the petition went beyond what Kansas law allows as the subject of municipal petitions. A judge agreed with the city.

Now the group has a bill in the legislature with a hearing this week. The bill is HB 2233, titled “Enacting the municipal historic building act.”

The key provision of the bill is this: “No city shall be permitted to sell, destroy, demolish, dispose of or otherwise alienate any public building that is more than 80,000 square feet in size and has been placed on the national register of historic places without first obtaining the approval [of voters.]”

At present, there are only two buildings that meet the criteria: Century II and the former Central Wichita Library.

In a release, John Todd writes:

House Bill No. 2233 is a bill initiated in the Kansas Legislature by the Wichita Save Century II citizens committee that is written to require a mandatory majority vote of Wichita qualified electors before municipally-owned buildings exceeding 80,000 square feet and on the National Register of Historic Places can be demolished or destroyed. We believe only two buildings in the state of Kansas meet this narrow definition: Century II and the former Wichita public library.

A public hearing is being held on Wednesday, February 24, on House Bill No. 2233 titled the Municipal Historic Buildings Act at 9:00 a.m. in the House Local Government Committee at the statehouse in Topeka.

Celeste Racette, Save Century II Committee Chair, Karl Peterjohn, Save Century II Committee Member, and I (also a Save Century II Committee Member) will be testifying in person at the committee hearing in Topeka.

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