By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — A group seeking to save the former chancery and convent on the Cathedral of St. Peter’s campus from the wrecking ball has filed a lawsuit against the City of Rockford.
The complaint claims that on May 6, aldermen failed to follow the city’s historic preservation ordinances when they voted to deny landmark status on the buildings. The vote came after the city’s Historic Preservation Commission recommended to landmark the structures.
“A non-home rule municipality may not ignore the recommendation of a body with expertise unless there is evidence the recommending body’s decision was factually flawed or inaccurate,” the suit brought by the group Save Piety Hill alleges.
Other plaintiffs include members of the Signal Hill Neighborhood Association. They are asking for a restraining order on demolition permits the Catholic Diocese of Rockford is seeking from the city.
“When this whole thing started several weeks ago, the thing any of us wanted was to end up in a lawsuit, and certainly not a lawsuit against our own city,” Save Piety Hill President Kyle Bevers said. “It kind of feels like we are suing our mom and our dad. And it doesn’t feel good. But, through the whole process and the attempt to negotiate are way through this–the attempts were foiled by the diocese at every step.”
Because the diocese opposed the commission’s recommendation, a supermajority of 10 council votes was required for approval. Council denied the application by a margin of 7-6.
Demolition on the 1243 N. Court St. chancery was set to begin next week. Work to raze the 1229 N. Court St. convent was scheduled to start May 27.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Friday, May 17, in front of Judge Lisa Fabiano.
This story has been updated.