In a letter dated September 28, 2018, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the federal agency tasked with coordinating the nation’s preservation policy and laws, asked the Army Corps of Engineers to provide greater clarity about their role and involvement in the proposed Ellicott City demolition plan.

As Preservation Maryland has previously noted, if Howard County intends on moving forward with their five-year, $50 million demolition plan and expects any federal funding (or reimbursements) or any federal permits, the County must engage in a robust and substantive public engagement and mitigation process (known legally as “Section 106“). As the Advisory Council notes in their September 28th letter, that process cannot begin after demolitions have begun or are completed.

Referring to regulations concerning what is known as “Anticipatory Demolition,” the Advisory Council expertly notes in their letter, that, “a federal agency will not grant a loan, loan guarantee, permit, license, or other authorization or assistance to an applicant who, with intent to avoid the requirements of Section 106, [emphasis added] has intentionally significantly adversely affected an historic property to which the grant would relate, or having legal power to prevent it, has allowed such significant adverse effect to occur.”

Historic 19th century painting of Ellicott City. Image from Library of Congress.

Historic 19th century painting of Ellicott City. Image from Library of Congress.

In layman terms, the Advisory Council is explaining that if Howard County moves forward with demolitions in order to speed the process and then applies for federal permits (to allow for Patapsco discharge, stream widening, etc.) or requests federal funding, those requests could be denied due to federal law’s prohibition on “anticipatory demolition.”

Preservation Maryland applauds the Advisory Council’s straightforward letter and encourages Howard County officials to engage further with the broader preservation community to understand the requirements of federal and state law — and to continue to find ways to avoid costly and unnecessary demolition which still leaves Ellicott City vulnerable to future flooding.

Read the Advisory Council’s Full Letter

Contact The Howard County Council