Case 140

American Institute of Architects v. City of Columbus, 1998 WL 340445 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 16, 1998); No. C 2-98-048.

The district court denied plaintiff, the Columbus Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent demolition of a historic State penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. The court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to prevent defendant, the City of Columbus, from proceeding with the demolition because plaintiff failed to demonstrate a "likelihood of success on the merits." The court further concluded that the hardship to the city outweighed any hardship to plaintiff.

In finding that there was no jurisdiction in this case, the court concluded that neither Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), nor a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) executed by the city and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, could be invoked to obtain jurisdiction. Section 106 did not apply because AIA failed to establish the presence of a "Federal undertaking." Plaintiff was unable to prove that the city had either requested or expended any Federal funds for the penitentiary demolition. It had merely proposed their use in the planning process.

The court also stated that the executed MOA could not be used to establish jurisdiction. It reasoned that previous courts had found that such memoranda "have no binding effect on the parties unless there exists a 'Federal undertaking,'" and the "obligation itself assumed by the city in the MOA is not sufficient to satisfy the threshold requirement of an 'undertaking.'" 1998 WL 340445, 2.

The court then looked at the issue of irreparable harm in its decision to deny the injunction. While the court acknowledged that AIA would suffer great injury if injunctive relief was not granted, it nonetheless concluded that "the hardship to the city outweighed any hardship visited upon the plaintiffs." Id. Finally, the court stated that the public interest lay in favor of the decision to demolish since the city's representatives had supported such a decision.

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