Landmark Decision Laid Over Again
Observer Staff
April 18, 2019
ROCKFORD—The Rockford City Council, during its regular meeting April 15, voted to send the decision on whether or not to landmark three buildings on the Cathedral of St. Peter campus back to the Codes and Regulations Committee for further review.
Alderman Frank Beach asked the council to lay the vote over to the May 6 meeting to allow the Codes and Regulations committee to recommend a compromise or give time for the diocese to consider plans for redevelopment.
“The vote to delay the decision on landmarking is a disappointment but it would indicate that the council members take such decisions seriously,” Penny Wiegert, diocesan director of Communication and Publications, told the media after the vote. 
“As we have continually maintained, the Diocese of Rockford is not just one neighborhood and one city but many over 11 counties in Northern Illinois,” she continued. “Our opponents in this matter believe these buildings and property should be landmarked for preservation in order to gain tax incentives for secular and commercial enterprises because it is their personal vision. 
“We have made it clear that is not Church’s vision, nor is it the Church’s mission. Our mission remains to serve all the people across the entire diocese remembering always to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and advocate for justice,” Wiegert said.
“We have made our case very clear that the property and buildings belonging to the Church should be used in serving the mission of the Church. Developing old buildings standing on church property for commercial and secular business does not advance or serve that mission.”
Petitions to landmark the former chancery, former convent and Cathedral of St. Peter School were filed in December 2018 by the Friends of Ziock, a Rockford area group. The petitions were filed without the consent of the Cathedral of St. Peter and the Diocese of Rockford.
The Diocese of Rockford and the Cathedral Parish announced in November of 2018 a plan to raze the former convent and chancery to make way for additional cathedral parking and for green space that will include a prayer and meditation garden dedicated to the Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception and one dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
But just days before demolition was to begin in December 2018, the City of Rockford denied the permit because of the historic landmark petition filed on the former chancery. Later a permit to raze the convent was also denied as a petition was filed to include the Cathedral of St. Peter School and convent for landmarking. 
The matter moved on to the City of Rockford’s Historic Preservation Commission. The commission approved the petitions and they were sent on to the City Council who referred the matter to its Codes and Regulation Committee. The committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full council deny the petitions.
The council is required to vote by a 2/3 majority when historic landmark designation is sought without consent of the landowner.
A vote on the issue was expected at the April 1 council meeting but the council members voted to lay the vote over to its next meeting. 
Just prior to that meeting former mayor of Rockford Larry Morrissey who is part of the Friends of Ziock announced in a press conference that he mailed a letter to Pope Francis asking him to save the Rockford buildings.
The Diocese of Rockford has maintained the buildings do not qualify for landmark status because none of the buildings meet the primary criteria for historic designation which states that a “structure or site must retain the integrity and spirit of the original design.”
 On Feb. 11, Rockford architect, Dan Roszkowski provided his expertise and support to that fact in a detailed presentation to the Historic Preservation Commission outlining why the buildings do not meet landmark criteria.
According to City Council rules, the matter must be decided by May 6 or the petition dies.