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Deadwood Weighing Legal Options In Wing Tsue Case

January 9, 2006, 6:05 PM by Andy Harvey

The unauthorized demolition of an historical Deadwood building has city leaders asking if they need to toughen their rules and regulations. Over Christmas weekend, the Wing Tsue building was torn down by the owner—Gene Johner—without permission from the city.

It's been more than two weeks since Deadwood's historical Wing Tsue building was torn down illegally...but the emotions are still running high.

Deadwood Mayor Francis Toscana said, "It makes me angry."

Toscana says this was one of the last structures owned and operated by early Chinese settlers.

Toscana said, "Well it's very disheartening that we lost a piece of our history that goes all the way back to 1896."

Now, the city is looking at taking some sort of legal action against the building's owner Gene Johner.

Toscana said, "One possibility is of course circuit court. We feel there were certainly city ordinance violated."

Johner was only allowed to take down the north and south buildings. He was supposed to leave the Wing Tsue intact as part of a renovation project. If the city doesn't take him to court, it might ask the state to sanction Johner because he's part owner of the Deadwood Gulch Casino.

Toscana said, "Another possibility is taking the owner of the property since they do own a gaming establishment, taking them in front of the gaming commission."

One thing is for sure; city officials are reviewing their procedures because of this incident.

Toscana said, "To see if they are as up to date as they can be, if there is something that we can do to strengthen the penalties, strengthen the ordinance so that this doesn't happen again."

All in an effort to preserve a town based on history. Johner and his attorney refused to comment on the case. The city attorney could make recommendations to the city council as early as next week.

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