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Statement Regarding Petition for Declaratory Judgment

7/29/2020
Contact: City Communications |

With guidance from the Wichita City Council, the City of Wichita today filed a Petition in the Eighteenth Judicial District Court seeking declaratory judgment challenging the validity of a petition submitted to the City Clerk by "Save Century II" and individual representatives of the organization.

While the City strongly supports the petition process and in providing citizens the right to express their opinion with their vote, we believe this petition is legally invalid and does not serve the citizens' best interests.

While we cannot support this proposed petition and ordinance, the City Council is unanimously supportive of continuing dialogue with all residents about this important issue. We recognize that there are other civic groups, including Save Century II and the Riverfront Legacy coalition (which engaged many thousands of residents in conversations about their project plans), who have emerging proposals regarding the future of Century II and neighboring buildings. We believe it is critical to hear from as many interested residents as possible before moving forward with any definitive plans.

However, after residents have been more comprehensively engaged on this issue, we are committed to seeking a citizen advisory vote to help guide future decisions.

The petition states:

Shall the following ordinance become effective:

BE IT ORDAINED THAT THE GOVERNING BODY OF THE CITY OF WICHITA, KANSAS:

No prominent city owned buildings of historical importance or architectural significance (regardless of historic register status), including Century II and the adjoining former Public Library, shall be demolished, replaced or otherwise adversely affected without a public vote of approval by the qualified voters in the City of Wichita and further, no interest in such city owned buildings, including Century II and the adjoining former Public Library, shall be leased, sold bartered, traded, conveyed or assigned and thereafter demolished, replaced or otherwise adversely affected without a public vote of approval by the qualified voters in the City of Wichita.

The City of Wichita believes the Save Century II petition is invalid for a variety of legal failings as well as practical realities, but most importantly:

  1. The proposed ordinance is overly broad, unconstitutionally vague and fails to define or provide any criteria to define what buildings are "of historical importance or architectural significance". The proposed ordinance would create an impractical precedent for the current and future City Councils as, in effect, they would be required to submit to public vote any renovation, lease, construction or general maintenance of its public buildings. As the petition is written, any building could be determined to be of historical importance or architectural significance. The petition is invalid because it requires the City to call for a binding election before any city-owned building with historical significance is significantly remolded or demolished. State law does not permit the City to call for binding elections for these types of decisions.
  2. The Save Century II petition would demand an administrative ordinance and thus not be authorized to be adopted by the referendum policy as defined in the Kansas referendum process.

An administrative ordinance is one that seeks to allow citizens to make governmental decisions which require specialized training, experience in municipal government and knowledge of the fiscal affairs of the City. Such ordinances are improper as they seek to infringe of areas of governmental control which have been determined by the legislature should be addressed by the city governing body and not the electorate.

Documents available for download:

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