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State preservation law

The SHPO accepts electronic submissions for state preservation law review requests. Please submit requests in a single document (such as a PDF or Word document) and email Lauren Jones.

Brief History of Kansas Preservation Act

The Kansas Preservation Act was originally enacted in 1977. The initial legislation declared historic preservation the policy of the state 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Which properties are subject to review in accordance with this law?

Answer: 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 and private properties.

Question: What governmental entities are affected by the state preservation law?

Answer: 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.

Question: How can one determine what properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or the Register of Historic Kansas Places?

Answer: Call the Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), at 785-272-8681, ext. 240, or email your request to cultural_resources@kshs.org. You may also view the complete list on our online database.

Question: Who is the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO)?

Answer: Jennie Chinn, executive director, Kansas State Historical Society, 6425 SW Sixth Ave., Topeka, KS 66615-1099.

Question: To whom should questions and requests be addressed?

Kansas Historical Society, Cultural Resources Division, 6425 SW 6th
Ave., Topeka, KS 66615-1099.

Question: What constitutes a project?

Answer: As defined in the 1981 amendment to the state's historic preservation law, 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.

Question: How can a city, county, or other governmental entity most easily comply with the requirements of this act?

Answer: Three things should be done:
1. Identify all recognized historic properties within its geographical jurisdiction.
2. Prepare a map indicating the boundaries of the historical properties.
3. Insure that adequate notice is provided to the SHPO of any project that may affect any such historic property or its environs.

Question: As a property owner, what are my responsibilities in accordance with this law?

Answer: If you are the owner of a listed property the application for a permit from your local governing body will trigger a review. The local governing body should contact our office with the pertinent information for us to complete the review. In some instances your local government may ask you to contact our office directly to receive a review. The local government may require a letter from our office to obtain a permit. To have your project reviewed in accordance with the state preservation law please contact the Cultural Resources Division at 785-272-8681.

Question: When must a project be submitted to the SHPO for review?

Answer: A project must be submitted for review when a permit application is submitted or when the governmental entity responsible for the project becomes aware that their project may affect historic properties. This can be as early as possible in the planning process so that potential adverse effects can be identified and taken into account.

Question: How does one notify the SHPO of a project?

Downtown Dodge CityAnswer: An official, employee, consultant, or other representative of the governmental unit involved may send a letter to the SHPO describing the proposed project and request his comments in accordance with K.S.A. 75-2724, or in the case of a city which has been requested to issue a permit, the property owner may be required by the city to obtain the SHPO's review and comments. Depending on the nature of the project, photographs, drawings, maps, plans, specifications, historical documentation, or other available materials that would help to explain the project should be included. Although written notice is necessary to initiate official review, telephone inquiries are encouraged as a means of checking with SHPO staff on historic property locations, potential effects of a proposed project, project changes, etc. The SHPO recommends that contact be initiated with SHPO staff in the very earliest stages of project planning to insure that proposed projects will not damage or destroy historic properties.

Question: How will the SHPO investigate the project?

Answer: 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.

Question: How long will it take the SHPO to review a project?

Answer: According to the law, the SHPO's investigation of a project must begin within 30 days following his notification. If it doesn't, the project is considered to be cleared. Any public hearing must be held within 60 days of receipt of notice of a project.  HPO 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 postal mail.

Question: What standards does the SHPO use to evaluate projects?

Answer: For reviews pertaining to listed properties the SHPO applies the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

Question: What decisions can the SHPO make on a proposed project?

Answer: 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 adverse effects to historic properties and alter the project so that it will not "damage or destroy" the property. If changes cannot be made, the SHPO may then formally send a letter to the applicant with a determination that the project will "damage or destroy" the historic property.

Question: What is the result of the SHPO's determination of "damage or destroy?"

Answer: The project cannot proceed until
1. the governor, in the case of a state project, 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.

Question: Is there any appeal from a local governing body's determination of "no feasible alternative?"

Answer: Yes. Anyone aggrieved by such a decision may appeal it to the district court having jurisdiction in the county where the affected historic property is located.

Question: What happens if a state agency or local governing body decides to ignore the requirements?

Answer: 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.

Question: What are the penalties for carrying out projects without first obtaining the required review?

Answer: 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 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.