Will Cook is a nationally recognized lawyer and scholar with a successful record for protecting National Historic Landmarks, significant landscapes, historic viewsheds, and traditional cultural properties. His practice focuses on balancing historic preservation with economic development so that historic preservation law is more efficient, effective, and predictable.
Section 106 Consultation and Historic Landscapes
Will helps his clients navigate the Section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act at the project level with an emphasis on historic viewsheds and landscape protection. He negotiates on behalf of tribes, project proponents, local governments, and other consulting parties to achieve creative, win-win outcomes that appropriately balance preservation values and development needs. Examples of his work include helping to find reasonable limits to unregulated cruise tourism in historic port communities, advising a local government with a National Historic Landmark district on its legal rights in response to proposed offshore utility-scale windfarms, and working with a nationally recognized preservation advocacy group on how to address a proposed seawall that would surround a National Historic Landmark district. In 2019, Will assisted the Parks & People Foundation in Baltimore with identifying ways to use Section 106 to leverage shoreline restoration of the Middle Branch Harbor and proposed “green” urban park along its 11-mile shoreline.
Local Preservation Law
Will’s extensive knowledge of preservation legal tools and land use law allows him to serve as a strategic partner with policymakers, developers, and preservation advocates on best practices to make preservation law more effective and efficient. Examples include assisting the City of Philadelphia and the Town of Palm Beach with identifying strengths and weaknesses in their local preservation laws, suggesting opportunities for improvement based on peer city reviews, and helping educate the public about preservation law’s benefits. Through his work with the National Alliance of Preservation Commission’s Disaster Planning Advisory Committee, Will helps historic communities with adaptation planning and disaster relief, including their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Traditional Cultural Properties
Will has argued in court and before administrative agencies across the country on behalf of advocates seeking to protect traditional cultural properties: historic places that continue to be used by living communities. His engagements have included arguing on behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation before the New Mexico Supreme Court, which affirmed unanimously Mount Taylor’s designation in New Mexico’s State Register of Cultural Properties.
Will earned his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and is a graduate of Furman University, where he received a B.A. in political science. Prior to joining Cultural Heritage Partners, Will served for eight years as associate general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and teaches preservation law at Columbia University.
For a municipality with a well-known historic preservation record, work with Town on identifying strengths and weaknesses of the local historic preservation ordinance, with suggestions of best practices for improvement.
For a nationwide preservation advocacy organization, survey and identify best practices for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating harm to historic and cultural resources from utility-scale solar energy development.
For a historic island town, negotiate a mitigation and settlement agreement with a developer to address potential harms to cultural resources, including a National Historic Landmark, from the construction of an offshore wind farm.
For a federally-recognized Native American tribe, secure rights to meaningful consultation by federal agency and oppose plans with a municipal board to construct water pumping facilities on the historic capital city of the tribe—to prevent disturbing ancestral burials and cultural resources.
Presenter, Palm Beach’s Historic Preservation Ordinance: Baseline Review of Current Strengths, Opportunities for Further Study, Historic District Educational Symposium, Town of Palm Beach & Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach (Palm Beach, FL; Dec. 2019)
Presenter, Preservation Law Update, PastForward, National Trust for Historic Preservation Annual Conference, (San Francisco, CA; Nov. 2018)
Presenter, New Urbanism and Historic Preservation, Historic Preservation in the 21st Century: Protecting Built and Natural Environments, Virginia Environmental Law Journal (Charlottesville, VA; Nov. 2, 2018)
Moderator, Through the Legal Lens: Lawyers Who Shaped NYC’s Landmarks Law Explore its Past, Present, and Future, New York Landmarks Conservancy, New York Preservation Archive Project, and Historic Districts Council (New York, NY; Nov. 9, 2017)
Keynote Speaker, A Baseline Review of Philadelphia’s Local Preservation Ordinance, Mayor’s Historic Preservation Task Force Public Meeting (Philadelphia, PA; Oct. 19, 2017)
Keynote Speaker, From Charleston to the Grand Canyon: Using Preservation Law to Protect Historic Places and Cultural Landscapes, Drayton Hall Distinguished Speaker Series (Charleston, SC; Mar. 21, 2017)
Co-Presenter, The Landscape of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe vs. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Oct. 25, 2016 | National Trust Forum Webinar)
Keynote Speaker, From Annapolis to Charleston: Protecting Cultural Heritage through Local Law, Legal Symposium: Creating, Defending, & Enforcing a Strong Historic Preservation Ordinance; Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions (Annapolis, MD; June 11, 2016).
Presenter, Creative Approaches to Using Law to Protect Historic Places, in Beyond the Five Boroughs: International Preservation Insights, The Fitch Forum, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (New York, NY; Oct. 17, 2015)
Presenter, What is the Value of Historic Preservation: Assessing Preservation Tax Credits in the U.S. & Abroad, American Bar Association Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee, Section of International Law 2015 Spring Meeting (Washington, D.C.; May 1, 2015)
Presenter, The Adverse Effects of Unregulated Cruise Tourism and the Venice and Charleston Experience, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Georgetown University Law Center 2015 National Preservation Law Conference (Washington, D.C.; Feb. 25, 2015)
Presenter, The Legal Framework for Preserving the Pacific’s World War II-Era Past, The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation Annual Conference (New Orleans, LA; Oct. 2, 2014)
Moderator & Presenter, Policy Tools Panel, Harboring Tourism: A Symposium on Cruise Ships in Historic Port Communities; World Monuments Fund, National Trust for Historic Preservation, & Preservation Society of Charleston (Charleston, SC; Feb. 6, 2013)
Presenter, Regulatory Takings Law and Historic Preservation, University of Pennsylvania School of Design Historic Preservation Program (Philadelphia, PA; March 2, 2012)
Presenter, Integrating Form-Based Codes in Historic Preservation Districts, Southeastern Legal Scholars Program (Charleston, SC; Oct. 2010)
Presenter, Emerging Patterns in Cultural Property Law, New Scholar Colloquia, Southeastern Association of Law Schools 62nd Annual Meeting (Palm Beach, FL; Aug. 2010)
Presenter, The Effects of Smart Growth on the Preservation of Historic Resources, Session on Managing the American Dream: Land Use and the Politics of Growth after the Mortgage Crisis, Law and Society Association Annual Meeting (Chicago, IL; May 28, 2010)
Presenter, A Whole New Land Use Law: Teaching New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Green Building, and the Laws that Govern Them, 61st Annual Meeting, Southeastern Association of Law Schools (Palm Beach, FL; Aug. 5, 2009)