David J. Barnes, Executor Estate of Grace V. Barnes, Appellant
Philadelphia Historical Commission
Argued: June 3, 2019
BEFORE: HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge, HONORABLE CHRISTINE
FIZZANO CANNON, Judge, HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER,
E. COVEY, JUDGE
J. Barnes (Barnes), Executor for the Estate of Grace V.
Barnes (Grace Barnes/mother) (collectively, Owner),
appeals from the Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court's
(trial court) February 16, 2018 order affirming the
Philadelphia Historical Commission's (Commission) April
13, 2017 order designating Owner's 559 Righter Street,
Philadelphia (City), Pennsylvania, residence (Property) as
historic and adding it to the City's Register of Historic
Places (Register). There are four issues before the Court:
(1) whether Owner's appeal is moot; (2) whether the
Commission's designation is void because it did not
receive a majority vote of the Commission members present;
(3) whether the Commission's designation is supported by
the criteria set forth in Section 14-1004(1) of the Historic
Preservation provisions in the Philadelphia Code
(Preservation Ordinance); and (4) whether the
Commission's designation imposes an extraordinary
economic impact upon, and is unduly oppressive to, Owner.
After review, we dismiss this appeal as moot.
14-1003(2)(a) of the Preservation Ordinance authorizes the
Commission to "[d]esignate as historic those buildings,
structures, sites, and objects that the [Commission]
determines are significant to the City, pursuant to the
criteria of [Section] 14-1004(1) [of the Preservation
Ordinance]." Preservation Ordinance §
14-1003(2)(a). Section 14-1004(1) of the Preservation
Ordinance provides, in relevant part:
A building, complex of buildings, structure, site, object, or
district may be designated for preservation if it:
(a) Has significant character, interest, or value as part of
the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the
City, Commonwealth, or nation or is associated with the life
of a person significant in the past;
. . . .
(c) Reflects the environment in an era characterized by a
distinctive architectural style;
(d) Embodies distinguishing characteristics of an
architectural style or engineering specimen; [or]
. . . .
(i) Has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information
important in pre-history or history[.]
Ordinance § 14-1004(1). The effect of having a property
designated as an historic landmark is that "no person
shall alter or demolish a historic building, structure, site,
or object" without the Commission's
approval. Preservation Ordinance § 14-1005(1).
September 19, 2016, the Commission staff nominated the
Property for designation as an historic building under the
Preservation Ordinance because it met criteria a, c, d and i
of Section 14-1004(1) of the Preservation
Ordinance. See Reproduced Record (R.R.) at
36a; see also R.R. at 37a-65a, 80a.
September 20, 2016 letter, the Commission notified Owner that
the Property had been nominated for designation as an
historic landmark and inclusion on the Register. See
R.R. at 67a-72a. Owner was therein informed that the
Commission would consider the Property's nomination and
accept public comment at its October 21 and November 10, 2016
meetings, and invited Owner to participate at those meetings.
See R.R. at 67a-70a.
October 3, 2016, at Owner's request, the Commission
supplied Owner with the nomination-related paperwork.
See R.R. at 74a. By October 19, 2016 letter, the
Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association informed the
Commission that it was not opposed to the Property's
nomination. See R.R. at 76a. On October 21, 2016,
Owner's legal counsel, William J. O'Brien, II,
Esquire (O'Brien), informed the Commission that the
Barnes' family had owned the Property for 115 years and,
since the designation was a matter of great significance,
requested the ...