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State preservation law

The Kansas State Preservation Law was originally enacted in 1977. Sometimes referred to as the state preservation statute, the initial legislation declared historic preservation the policy of the state of Kansas and required the activities of governmental entities which encroached on national or state register properties to be reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). In 1981 lawmakers widened the law to require review of all projects involving national and state register properties and their environs which needed local building permits. In 2013 lawmakers reversed the 1981 amendment resulting in the elimination of environs reviews. The current state preservation law is outlined in K.S.A. 75-2724 and accompanying regulations.

Need a letter from the SHPO? How does one notify the SHPO of a project?
The Kansas SHPO accepts requests for review under the state preservation law only via the Kansas Review & Compliance online submission system. To submit a request, click the “Submit Your Project” button in the left sidebar.

When must a project be submitted to the SHPO for review?
State agencies and local governments must request a review as soon as the project scope of work is developed. Local governments general submit requests for review at the time a permit application is filed or when the governmental entity responsible for the project becomes aware that a project may affect historic properties. Requests for review can and should be submitted as early in the project planning process as possible to head off potential adverse impacts to historic properties.

What is needed for SHPO review?
An official, employee, consultant, or other representative of the governmental unit requesting the review should access the Kansas Review & Compliance online submission system at review.kshs.org/Account/Login to create an account and/or login to the system. Start the request by selecting “Create New Project” from the left tool bar. The system will ask for basic project data including project name, description, type, and location. Included questions also ask about the property’s Register-listing status, the nature of the project, and the involvement of either federal, state, or local governmental entities. The system will allow you to upload multiple documents, maps, plans, drawings, specifications, historical documents, and photographs to further illustrate and explain the project.

If your project is in preliminary planning stages and you do not yet have enough information to submit a review request, SHPO welcomes your phone call or email to discuss potential effects of the project. Likewise, if you need to change the scope of work for a project previously submitted, contact SHPO at 785-272-8681 ext. 240 or kshs.shpo@ks.gov

What governmental entities are affected by the state preservation law?
The state and all state agencies, boards, institutions, offices, authorities, commissions, colleges, hospitals, etc., and any county, township, city, school district, special district, regional agency, redevelopment agency, and any other political subdivision of the state. All projects that require permits from a state or local government entity will be reviewed.

Which properties are subject to review in accordance with this law?
Only those buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places or the Register of Historic Kansas Places. This includes public as well as private properties.

How can one determine what properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or the Register of Historic Kansas Places?
Call the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), at 785-272-8681, ext. 240, or email your request to kshs.shpo@ks.gov. You may also view the complete list on our online database.

Who is the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO)?
Patrick Zollner is the executive director of the Kansas Historical Society and serves as the State Historic Preservation Officer for the state.  

What constitutes a project?
As defined in the statute, a project is:
a. any activity directly carried out by state or local government entities;
b. any activities carried out by individuals, firms, organizations, etc., which receive financial assistance from any state agency or local government entity;
c. any activities involving the issuing of a lease, permit, license, or certificate by a government unit - including zoning changes.

How can a city, county, or other governmental entity most easily comply with the requirements of this law?
Three things should be done:
1. Identify all recognized historic properties within its geographical jurisdiction (i.e. those listed in the National Register of Historic Places or the Register of Historic Kansas Places)
2. Prepare a map indicating the boundaries of the historic properties
3. Insure that adequate notice is provided to the SHPO of any project that may affect any such historic property.

As a property owner, what are my responsibilities in accordance with this law?
If you are the owner of a National Register or state register-listed property, the application for a permit from your local governing body will trigger a review. The local governing body should submit a request for review via the Kansas Review & Compliance online submission system. The local government is required to obtain a letter from SHPO before issuing permits for projects taking place on Register-listed properties.

How will the SHPO investigate the project?
Depending on the type and complexity of the project, the SHPO may do some or all of the following:
a. Analyze the plans, specifications, maps, photographs, and other forms of data explaining the proposed activity;
b. Inspect the historic property that may be affected; hold a public hearing to gather information, determine local attitudes and explore alternatives;
c. Request the advice of the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review; conduct historical, architectural, or archeological research;
d. Consult with recognized authorities in history, architecture, architectural history, archeology, or other relevant fields.

How long will it take the SHPO to review a project?
According to the state statute, the SHPO's investigation of a project must begin within 30 days following notification by the governing entity. If investigation is not initiated in that time, the project is considered to be cleared. Any public hearing deemed necessary by SHPO must be held within 60 days of receipt of notice of a project. SHPO staff will generally study the project information within ten working days after it is received. If more material is needed, it will be requested, and the investigation will not proceed until sufficient information is obtained for the SHPO to make a decision. Most project reviews can be concluded within fifteen working days. Responses will be sent in writing via Kansas Review & Compliance submission system.

What standards does the SHPO use to evaluate projects?
For reviews pertaining to register-listed properties the SHPO applies the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

What decisions can the SHPO make on a proposed project?
The SHPO will determine that the proposed project either will or will not "damage or destroy" the historic property. Unofficially, prior to the SHPO's rendering of an adverse effect determination, HPO staff will try to work with the applicant to make adjustments in the project that will avoid those adverse effects and alter the project so that it will not "damage or destroy" the property. If changes cannot be made, the SHPO will then formally send communication to the applicant with a determination that the project will "damage or destroy" the historic property.

What happens if the SHPO determines that a project will "damage or destroy” a historic property?
The project cannot proceed nor can a permit be issued until:
1. the governor, in the case of a project undertaken by the state, or the governing body of the local political subdivision involved, has determined after consideration of all relevant factors that no "feasible and prudent alternative" exists to the proposed project and that the project contains provisions to minimize damage to historic properties and;
2. five day's notice of such determination has been given to the SHPO by certified mail.

Generally, local governing bodies will include the case on the agenda of a regularly-scheduled public meeting to allow for public comment and input on the project and to seek out all relevant factors of the project before making their determination. If a local governing body or the governor, in the case of projects undertaken by the state, finds no “feasible and prudent alternatives” to the project as it was proposed then the project or issuance of the permit may proceed once the SHPO has been notified and given five days to acknowledge receipt of such notice.

Is there any appeal from a local governing body's determination?"
Yes. Anyone aggrieved by such a decision may appeal to the district court having jurisdiction in the county where the affected historic property is located.

What happens if a state agency or local governing body decides to ignore the requirements?
Enforcement can be sought in the district court having jurisdiction where the violation occurred or is threatened. Those having standing to bring action in court include the state, all political subdivisions having the capacity to sue or be sued, the Kansas State Historical Society, and city and county historical societies which have been organized for two years, have elected officers and have received compensation, funds, or reimbursements from a city or county.

What are the penalties for carrying out projects without first obtaining the required review?
A 1988 amendment to the state preservation law provides that fines up to $25,000 and other relief may be sought in district court by the state attorney general against persons or entities who implement projects that "damage or destroy" historic properties before seeking and obtaining required building or demolition permits. Thus, persons or entities cannot with impunity neglect to obtain a city building or demolition permit in order to avoid review by the SHPO under this law.