Amicus Brief of Historic Preservation Organizations and Legal Scholars in Support of the City of Houston, No. 19-0689 (Tex.)
Bronin, Sara C. Amicus Brief of Historic Preservation Organizations and Law Scholars in Powell v. City of Houston, No. 19-0689 (Aug. 6, 2020) (Tex.)
49 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2020 Last revised: 1 Jun 2021
Date Written: 2020
This brief to the Texas Supreme Court was filed by the Amici Curiae, including local, state, and national preservation organizations and legal scholars, to inform the court about background legal principles regarding zoning and historic preservation law. The Amici lay out reasons why the Historic Preservation Ordinance (the “HPO”) adopted by the City of Houston (the “City”) is a straightforward, valid exercise of municipal powers pursuant to Texas law and any rational interpretation of longstanding principles of land use regulation. The Amici Curiae focus on three issues, based on their expertise and their deep knowledge of the law, policy, and practice of historic preservation and zoning.
First, the Amici Curiae show the important distinctions between historic preservation and zoning law. These areas of law can be distinguished from each other in several ways. Zoning and historic preservation law emerged for different reasons, at different times. They regulate different activities: zoning law necessarily regulates uses, as well as the general bulk and placement of buildings, while historic preservation law regulates architectural appearance and the character-defining features of historic properties. And historic preservation law only regulates properties designated as historic (individually or within a designated historic district) – which is not the case with zoning, which regulates all properties within a jurisdiction, whether historic or not.
Second, the Amici Curiae explain how historic places can be regulated by zoning law, historic preservation law, both, or neither. The fact that a place, like the Houston Heights Historic District East at issue in this case, is regulated by historic preservation law has no bearing on whether that place is also subject to zoning law. The petitioners’ illogical argument that regulation by historic preservation law is necessarily regulation by zoning law has never been adopted by any other court.
Third, the Amici Curiae show that the HPO is not zoning, let alone spot zoning. Analyzing the HPO in light of the differences between historic preservation law and zoning law, it is very clear that the HPO is not zoning, nor it is spot zoning resulting from unreasonable or irrational singling out of individual owners, as the State of Texas argues in its Amicus Curiae brief.
Keywords: Zoning, Land Use, Historic Preservation, Houston, Planning, Property Rights, Referendum
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