Case 2

South Hill Neighborhood Association v. Romney, 421 F.2d 454 (6th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 1025 (1970).

Nonprofit organizations, taxpayers, and property owners challenged part of an urban renewal plan adopted in 1965 by the urban renewal agency of the city of Lexington, Kentucky. Implementation of the plan was to be funded by a loan and capital grant that had been approved in 1966 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD approved amendments to the plan in 1968 and 1969. The renewal area contained historic properties, 14 of which were within the West High Street Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. Soon after, the local agency accepted a development proposal submitted by the Citizens Union Bank for construction of an office building on part of the land included in the renewal area. The city and the bank executed a contract that required the buildings in the area to be demolished. After title to the land had passed from the local agency to the bank, HUD approved demolition of seven of the buildings and demolition began. Plaintiffs sought to enjoin demolition, alleging that HUD had failed to notify the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation of the proposed demolition as required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action on the ground that plaintiffs lacked standing, incorporating the lower court's memorandum into its opinion. Plaintiffs had not established a logical link between their taxpayer status and NHPA. Moreover, none of the plaintiffs had any real interest in the project, as none of them owned or had legal control over any of the buildings at the time they were placed on the National Register and none had submitted a development proposal for the area. 421 F.2d at 460-61. The court also rejected plaintiffs' argument that they had standing under the "private attorney general" doctrine because they had no direct interests in the buildings and had not engaged sufficiently in the administrative process to show a special interest in the controversy so as to be included among those parties aggrieved or adversely affected by agency action. Id. at 461. [Ed. note: This case preceded the Supreme Court's landmark standing decision in Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972), in which the court found allegations of use of an area to be sufficient to confer standing.]

The court went on to say, however, that even if plaintiffs did have standing, they would not be entitled to relief because the grant contract and the contract amendments occurred before the buildings had been placed on the National Register. Id. at 461-62. Rumors of the historic significance of the buildings were not enough to require HUD to notify the Council. HUD's subsequent approval of demolition did not trigger NHPA, which applies only when an agency authorizes plans or amendments to plans and enters into the resulting grant contract. Id. at 462.

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