HISTORIC PRESERVATION At Whose Expense?
Bunker purchased a dilapidated, historic farmhouse and barn in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania in 1983. The property's deed had a "covenant agreement" (an historic easement) on it by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a large quasi-private, government-sanctioned Trust in Washington DC. After Bunker had spent about 40 years meticulously preserving and fixing up the house and barn -- even employing Amish craftsmen for intricate reconstruction -- the National Trust decided that it wanted Bunker to "contribute" his house and barn to their general neighborhood preservation project, a multi-million dollar project that included three other buildings and a mill.
After many years of negotiation, Bunker and the National Trust were unable to arrive at an equitable agreement. The National Trust then hired local lawyers to find a way to acquire Bunker's property, with or without his cooperation. To this end, they found a minor infraction on the "deed covenant" and used this to open a series of legal actions. The National Trust claimed that Bunker had installed some "non-historic" windows in his house. Bunker countered that he had express authorization from the National Trust's chief architect to install the windows. He further explained that the windows were temporary to keep destructive weather out of the house while he focused his attention on restoration of the Barn, much of which was missing a roof. (See short video tour of the barn at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i69-ki-9rD4) In reaction to this, the lawyers for the National Trust forbid the chief architect from having any further communications with Bunker and proceeded to use the windows to build their case.(1)
To facilitate their acquisition plans, the National Trust then requested Bunker post an intimidating $400,000 bond and comply with a growing list of dictates. When Bunker was unwilling to comply, they used this as further "grounds" to step up their legal harassment for another four years. This may have caused Bunker serious health problems, for this legal harassment culminated in the National Trust physically sending in a small armada of lawyers, armed guards and a constable to literally throw him and his fiancée out of his house. As this abuse was escalating, Bunker and his family hired an MAI appraiser to evaluate the house, barn and 2 acres. The appraisal came in just over $400,000 but in August of 2011, the National Trust, without consulting Bunker as to listing price -- or even getting his signature on the sale agreement -- sold the house and barn for $145,000 -- just enough to cover their legal fees and other expenses, such as the police powers they improperly used against a citizen.
We are now seeking counsel, on a contingency basis, that would able and willing to bring legal action against the National Trust (http://www.nationaltrust.org) and possibly the "receiver". We believe the National Trust has no Constitutional authority to deed restrict or confiscate private property no matter what "social good" is claimed and the court-appointed receiver may have violated her fiduciary responsibilities when she sold the property for way under market value. Media, research professionals and legal counsel interested in helping us with this case should contact us at 212-933-9374 or email@example.com. For details, see http://www.jaegerresearchinstitute.org/articles/takings.htm
Background and Details:
On 06 December 1983, Eugene A. Jaeger, Jr., aka "Bunker," purchased a dilapidated house, barn and goat shed from THE FRENCH AND PICKERING CREEK CONSERVATION TRUST, INC. (the "Pickering Creek Trust" or "Grantor") for the sum of $81,000.
Bunker has evidence that his ancestors once owned this house over 213 years ago. Given the historic tie and his interest in restoration, Bunker poured all his efforts and considerable funding into meticulously restoring the house, barn and grounds for about 30 years. He even hired the Amish to help with the restoration project, in particular the restoration of huge beams in the barn and in restoring a roof and side where there was none.
Bunker's overall preservation strategy was to first address openings that exposed the house and barn to the weather and then move onto the infrastructure of the buildings, such in horrendous decay when the property was purchased. Bunker was not therefore concerned with cosmetics, such as painting, molding, counters, floor tops or in restoring "historic" windows, cornices, stiles and or the general "exterior envelope" of the buildings.
Nevertheless, almost immediately after Bunker purchased the property as part of the "Mill at Anselma," on 29 November 1983, THE FRENCH AND PICKERING CREEK CONSERVATION TRUST, INC. entered into a "Grant of Easement and Declaration of Restrictive Covenants" (the "Covenant Agreement" or "Easement") with the NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION IN THE UNITED STATES located at 1785 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Washington, DC, a nonprofit corporation chartered by an Act of Congress (the "National Trust" or "Grantee"). The purpose for this was so the local Pickering Creek Trust could receive money from the federal government, as stated in the Covenant Agreement: ". . .the Pickering Creek Trust or "grantor, as a condition of financial assistance from the National Trust, agrees to impose limitations and restrictions on the use and development of the property in order to preserve its historical and cultural significance."
True Restoration Underway:
Between 1983 and 2007 Bunker worked on the restoration of the house, barn, goat shed and grounds. Considerable effort was placed into the grounds, which looked like the grounds of a ghost house when he started. Great progress was also made on addressing the infrastructure of the house and barn. The house, when purchased, didn't have any plumbing or heat. Many of the floors were missing or totally rotten. Walls had holes in them and there was rotten and chipping plaster all over. Electrical wires were chaotically strewn all over. One entire side of the barn, a huge 5-story structure, was missing and half of the roof was gone. Almost all of the beams and floor boards in both the house and barn were rotten and all had to be replaced. The outside windows around the house were so rotten, cold air and water came in easily. To make the house even remotely livable while undergoing long-term preservation and restoration, Bunker had to do whatever was necessary, INCLUDING INSTALLING SOME TEMPORARY WINDOWS.
You can review the work Bunker put into the restoration of his barn, as well as the destruction of the 4-story general store by the Trust at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i69-ki-9rD4 MAC users can also see the video at http://www.mecfilms.com/anselma/barn.mov. This short film will eventually be updated with "before and after" pictures so you can better appreciate the tedious preservation AND restoration work Bunker did the past 30 years. We will also include photographs and/or footage of the 4-story general story the National Trust failed to preserve, again in violation of their own "covenant agreement", more fully discussed above. We strongly urge you to look at this short film otherwise it will be difficult to fully grasp the magnitude of the injustices and misrepresentations being levied by the court-appointed Receiver and the lawyers for the National Trust of Historic Preservation in Washington DC.
As Bunker's infrastructure improvements proceeded over the course of 20 or so years, preservationists at the Pickering Creek Trust started fixing up the other buildings on the grounds of the Mill at Anselma. They claim to have raised and spent about $1.7 million on these buildings -- private/public financing presumably from the National Trust. This money was used to restore the mill and two other buildings as well as tear down a 4-story general store which was not properly preserved by either the Pickering Creek Trust or the National Trust, thus violating their own covenant agreements. Eventually Mauri Kring, the new head of the restoration project who took over from Eleanor Morris, asked Bunker to "contribute his house to the project so it could be incorporated into the overall development plan." But seeing how Kring had "preserved" the 4-story general store, combined with the fact that he made Bunker no bona fide offers to purchase his property, or to even grant equity in the Anselma project, Bunker had some serious reservations about Kring's qualifications and business practices.
After several years of listening to rhetoric from Kring such as, "Mr. Jaeger, can't you just chip in the property or just move," Bunker and the Pickering Creek Trust, under Kring, were unable to come to terms. Things then got ugly. Robert J. Shusterman, acting for Ross M. Bradford, Assistant General Counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, filed a law suit against Bunker on 20 November 2007. The complaint hit Bunker with a $400,000 bond and a number of accusations that essentially boiled down to the idea that he wasn't "maintaining the cosmetics of the house" and thus they had a "right" to take it over. Specifically, the complaint stated: "In 2005 representatives of Plaintiff National Trust inspected the Property (Bunker's house) and found that Defendant (Bunker) Jaeger failed to maintain the Miller's House and Barn in violation of the maintenance and restoration requirements of the Easement. Plaintiff National Trust also observed that, if not remedied, will lead to the accelerating deterioration of the Miller's House and the Barn."
To see what a joke this "complaint" was, watch the short documentary film we made on the condition of the property when Bunker purchased it and the enormity of the infrastructure restoration he had to confront in the barn. Bear in mind, as previously stated, Bunker's strategy was to address the infrastructure, not the cosmetics. Yet it was cosmetics that the National Trust sued over, again, suing Bunker for some windows while they allowed an entire 4-story general store to rot into oblivion. Other than many hours of video documentary footage dating back to 1983, we have hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs showing the exact condition of the house, barn, goat shed and grounds when Bunker acquired the property.
The photographic documentary evidence we have on this property clearly shows that the property, when purchased in 1983, could be categorized as in "demolition-candidate condition". Bunker, with no help from outside funding sources, brought the property up to the level of "barely livable condition".
National Trust's Plan:
Clearly, from the point of view of outside observers and counsel, what seemed to be happening was the following: The National Trust for Historic Preservation invested almost $2 million of private-public (taxpayer) money into the surrounding properties at the Mill at Anselma. Bunker chose to not accept such welfare money from the government but instead preserve it with his own money and at his own pace.(1) Then when he refused to "contribute" his property to the Trust and/or Anselma project, Kring and/or the National Trust officers decided to retaliate. To this end, they invaded his property in reliance on an unconstitutional "Covenant Agreement". The U.S. Constitution clearly does not authorize the taking or use of private property for "historic preservation" purposes. Since no contract can be made for illegal purposes, we maintain that the Covenant Agreement was and is illegal under Constitutional law. To "justify" the confiscation of a citizen's private property for the "greater good" or the "general welfare", is a breach of the highest law of the land.
The National Trust thus used a "Covenant Agreement" to justify "violations" of an illegal property easement. Specifically, they used the temporary windows Bunker installed to keep out weather, as a "justification" for initiating a law suit and an unconstitutional invasion of private property. They then invoked broad language in the Covenant Agreement -- with words such as, "construction, alteration, or remodeling or any other thing . . ." -- as a "justification" for imposing all manner of overwhelming fix-up requirements and a bond in the amount of $400,000, what amounted to a scare tactic. Paragraph 26 from the complaint states: "WHEREFORE, Plaintiff National Trust requests that this Court preliminarily appoint a receiver for (Bunker's) Property and direct such receiver (Mary Ann Rossi) to enter into architectural and engineering contracts for the stabilization of the Property and the preparation of construction documents for the restoration, rehabilitation and renovation as required by the Easement. In the alternative, Plaintiff National Trust requests that this Court order Defendant Jaeger to enter into valid and binding contracts with such architects, engineers and contractors as to provide for the stabilization of the Property and the performance of the work required by the Easement and order Defendant Jaeger to post a bond with the Court in the amount of Four Hundred Thousand Dollars ($400,000) to guaranty the payment to architects, engineers and contractors for the work required pursuant to this Easement."
Retaliation and Complaint:
Because Bunker would not "contribute" his property to the neighborhood fix-up project being conducted by the Mauri Kring and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we allege that the National Trust maliciously "found" and used a technicality in the broad language of the "Easement Agreement to claim that he was out compliance. They then proceeded to demanded significant restoration, rehabilitation and renovation contracts or a $400,000 bond be placed upon Bunker. While, at the same time, none of the administrators or experts at the National Trust (with the exception of George Sieken, chief architect of the Pickering Creek Trust), acknowledged any of the 30 years of infrastructure work -- "restoration, rehabilitation or renovation" -- Bunker put into the project, or the fact that he had a Constitutional right to sell, or not sell, contribute, or not contribute, his private property to some communal enterprise.
Thus, we maintain that, overtly or covertly, lawyers for Pickering Creek Trust and the National Trust (Ross M. Bradford, Robert J. Shusterman, and Steven L. Sugarman) conspired against Bunker and "found" a technicality that they would later use to deem him "out of compliance". Again, that "technicality" was some windows Bunker had installed on the house over twenty years ago and afterwards received explicit authorization for (in the presence of witnesses) from the chief architect of the Pickering Creek Trust, George Sieken.
Nevertheless, after Bunker informed the National Trust that Mr. Sieken had given him express authorization to alter the windows, the National Trust's lawyers forbid Mr. Sieken from engaging in any further communications with Bunker. We know this to be a fact, because Mr. Sieken thereafter refused to take any further phone calls or answer any letters.<
National Trust's Failure at Preservation:
During the same time-frame the National Trust and the Pickering Creek Trust were allegedly colluding or conspiring to confiscate Bunker's property on the bogus grounds that he wasn't properly following preservation etiquette, they were permitting a 4-story general store -- on an adjacent lot to Bunker's property -- to rot so badly, the entire building had to be demolished. In other words, while they were accusing Bunker of installing temporary windows that were "out of compliance," they were allowing a national treasure no more than 50 feet away to be destroyed by the weather and elements. In the eyes of Bunker -- and the entire neighborhood for that matter that witnessed the demolition of the 4-story general store -- the National Trust for Historic Preservation had little or no credibility as a competent preservation entity on this project.
Thus, as a result of the failure of both the Pickering Creek and the National Trust to preserve the 4-story general store, my brother views their claims as little more than harassment and an attempt to use a government-sanctioned, quasi-private, taxpayer-funded trust in DC to infringe his Fourth Amendment rights: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Clause 9 of the Covenant Agreement, written by counsel for the National Trust, states: "Representatives of the National Trust shall be permitted at reasonable times, which shall be established in advance by the National Trust by ten (10) days notice, to come upon the Property (emphasis added) (i) to inspect for violation of any covenants herein, except that if the National Trust has reason to believe that violations are occurring or have occurred the National Trust shall not be obligated to give said ten (10) days notice or any other notice whatsoever . . ." If this isn't an invasion of property and a violation of the Fourth Amendment, what is? Where is the due process?
The fact of the matter is this: unless one has done it, one has no idea how difficult it is to restore a 200-year old barn and house. Claims that "work is proceeding too slowly" are thus invalid because historic restoration is more of an art than an assembly-line, government-works project. Again, Bunker's ancestors are believed to be the original owners of this property and evidence of this claim is the fact that Bunker's mother and sister are members of Daughters of the American Revolution, an historic organization for women who can prove their lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution. See www.philadelphiadar.org.
Abuse of Police Powers:
As if the above long-term harassment and collusion were not enough, in Fall of 2010, two constables, a Chester County sergeant, a corporal, deputy, private security guard, locksmith ("Agents") and a court-appointed attorney (the "Receiver") invaded Bunker's personal property (with guns literally drawn) and ejected him from the premises. They then changed all the locks on the exterior doors and posted an armed security guard on the property who remained there 24/7.
The Receiver, Mary Ann Rossi, Esq., on behalf of Ross Bradford, Esq., of the National Trust, then proceeded to threaten Bunker with further court orders unless he met a deadline to remove all his furniture and personal property from the house, barn and goat shed. They wanted to be in a position sell the property (presumably to themselves or an associate, covertly or overtly). At this point, Bunker engaged an attorney, Joseph J. Dougherty, who was able to gain access for Bunker to the house to remove personal belongings and comply with outstanding court orders. Access was granted (by the Receiver) provided a constable was present to ensure nothing was removed from the house other than as authorized by Rossi or her Agents. Upon reentering the house in the Fall of 2010, Bunker noticed that his new laptop computer was missing. He immediately reported this to his attorney, who was present the entire time, and filed a police report. Since Rossi and her Agents were the only people in the house at the time of ejection and all subsequent times, they are the primary suspects for the theft. Since the Receiver was responsible for the orderly execution and supervision of the court order, and yet, theft occurred on her watch, at the very least she, Ross Bradford and/or the DC Trust, are actionable for failure to prudently execute their fiduciary responsibilities and/or suspects for larceny.
When Bunker's sister and brother saw the rampant abuse and disregard for their brother and his belongings, they hired an MAI appraiser to evaluate the house, barn and real estate. They felt that the National Trust would, at the very least, sell Bunker's property at a fair market value, but that was not to be. Even though the appraisal came in over $400,000, the National Trust, in August of 2011, without even consulting Bunker as to listing price, went ahead and sold the house, barn, goat shed and 2 acres of prime Chester Springs real estate for the sum of $145,000. They sold this private property without his permission -- or even his SIGNATIRE -- for just enough money to cover their legal fees, court costs and expenses of the police powers they improperly used against a citizen of the United States. Bunker is now practically homeless and some stranger is occupying his house. Strangely, when the paperwork came back from the Trust lawyers letting Bunker know they liquidated his house, none of the documents had the former address of the buyer, so there was no way he could positively identify the buyer. This suspicious omission, along with the abuses enumerated above, have prompted the family to retain the services of a licensed detective to investigate, not only the buyer's identity (and any connections he may have to the National Trust), but the receiver and attorneys that initiated and litigated these actions against Bunker and his restoration project.
We are now seeking competent legal counsel that would be able and willing to sue the National Trust (which conducted about $60 million worth of business in 2010 according to their website) and various others connected with this case.
What Americans Should Consider:
This "taking" could happen to you, or someone you know. When American citizens have reasons to fear that organizations claiming to act for "the greater good" partner with government in order to use the police powers of the state to fulfill their "do-gooder mission statements," this is a form of communism that even Karl Marx would not have approve of: the confiscation of hard-earned PROLETARIAT private property. In our opinion, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its legal accomplices named above, are guilty of crimes against citizens and in violation of the U.S. Constitution. A review of not only the National Trust and the Pickering Creek Trust, but the law firms abetting these crimes should be done by concerned citizens to determine exactly where lines should be drawn. Questions like, Where their funding comes from? and What portions are provided by tax payers? should be addressed. Also, How may other people have they victimized? should be assessed. In short, a class-action may be in order, additionally.(2)
Media, research professionals and legal counsel interested in helping us with this case should contact us at 212-933-9374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Note that the "before and after" photographs are still being edited into this short documentary, entitled BARNBUILDER INTERRUPTED. What you see in the documentary is what the property looked like in 2010. What you will be amazed to see is what it looked like in 1982 when Bunker acquired. It was in such horrific condition, the well-known Main Line builder, Henry S. Belber, personally advised Bunker to not "take on the project." It was only after years of tedious restoration, all self-financed by Bunker, that the Pickering Creek and National Trusts saw any possibility with this property and stared funneling quasi-private, government- sanctioned taxpayer funds into the surrounding buildings, destroying a national treasure in the process. The short documentary in production entitled, BARNBUILDER INTERRUPTED, is being developed into a feature-length documentary tentatively entitled HISTORIC PRESERVATION - at Whose Expense? For more information on this project, go to http://www.JaegerResearchInstitute.org/articles/restoration.htm
(2) For those interested in exploring this issue in greater depth, James Bovard has written an excellent book entitled, Lost Rights. This book documents the disturbing trend of government/special interest intervention into private property rights. In fact, the actions of the National Trust for Historic Preservation are specifically discussed in this treatise.
Originated: 04 January 2010
Supplemented: 24 January 2010
Updated: 29 August 2011
Revised & Supplemented: 27 December 2011
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