The city of Santa Fe and Mayor Alan Webber argued in a recent court filing that Union Protectíva de Santa Fé’s lawsuit seeking the restoration of the Soldiers Monument should be dismissed because it relies on an expired emergency order from June of last year.
The motion, filed Sept. 10, contends the mayor’s emergency order — which directed city staff to explore legal processes to remove the controversial Plaza obelisk as unrest roiled in the city last summer — was allowed to expire, no longer has legal standing and has since been replaced by the city’s Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process.
The motion also argues any state preservation requirements regarding the area have not yet come into play because no recommendations for the site have been determined.
A lawsuit filed by Union Protectíva in June argues the city and Webber violated state preservation laws by issuing the order during a summer of cultural unrest and seeks an injunction on any further action at the site as well as a court order restoring the obelisk, which was destroyed by protesters last October.
The Plaza is a National Historic Landmark, and the monument is on both the state and national register of historic places as a contributing property to the Plaza.
The city’s CHART process is expected to lead to a list of recommendations not just for the area the obelisk once occupied, but the Don Diego de Vargas statue that sat in nearby Cathedral Park until it was removed by the city last year.
The state’s Prehistoric and Historic Sites Preservation Act requires a consultation process with the state historic preservation officer before public funds are spent on any programs that “use” a protected site. “Use” is defined in the statute as anything that results in an adverse effect, alteration or destruction of such sites.
The city has pushed back against the lawsuit in court filings.
In July, the city filed a motion to dismiss the case, in which it called the lawsuit “at best premature.” It argued that because no determination for the site has been made, the state’s Prehistoric and Historic Sites Preservation Act was not violated.
In response, Union Protectíva filed a rebuttal, stating that while CHART has not led to any recommendations, the mayor’s call for the obelisk’s removal prior to its toppling last October should have triggered the preservation act.
Kenneth Stalter, an attorney for Union Protectíva, said the city should have followed the law, while the city counters the lawsuit is an attempt to undermine state preservation requirements.
In response to an August letter sent by Webber requesting clarification on any potential recommendations for the site, state Historic Preservation Officer Jeff Pappas wrote that state law and the purpose of CHART do not necessarily align and a meeting between the state Cultural Affairs Department and the city should happen to make sure the city is following state requirements.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit was scheduled for Dec. 8, according to court records.