Judge Says Owners Must ‘Reconstruct or Relocate’ McKennan Park House


Move it and make it smaller.  That’s what a Minnehaha County Judge is saying to the owners of a controversial McKennan Park house.  

Six months after the case was in court, Judge John Pekas ruled in favor of Pierce and Barbara McDowell.  The McDowells sued their neighbors, Joseph “Josh” and Sarah Sapienza, for building their house too close to the McDowells’.  The McDowell family says this prevented them from using their fireplace. In Pekas’s 29-page decision, he says the Sapienzas violated historical code for height and size requirements.

According to Pekas, the Sapienzas must bring it into compliance with South Dakota’s rules of building in historic districts.  That means they will have to reduce the height of the house by more than eight feet and, “reconstruct or relocate,” their house in order to comply  The house is currently just seven feet away from the McDowells’ home. 

“My clients are very pleased.  It’s been a very long road for them,” Steve Johnson, attorney for McDowells, said.

In his decision, Pekas says the Sapienzas, “have violated historic requirements in the McKennan Park Historic District, which disrupts the character of the neighborhood.”
Pekas ruled the value of the McDowells’ home suffered “irreparable harm” because it lost historical and monetary value.  Johnson says the ruling protects other home owners in the City of Sioux Falls. 

“If you’ve got zoning laws and you’ve got historical standards, what is the point of having those if people don’t comply with them.  And that was the argument in the case,” Johnson said.

The attorney for the Sapienzas, who has never commented on the case to KELOLAND News, did not return our request for a statement on Wednesday’s ruling.  

Pekas also ruled the City of Sioux Falls may have been negligent for approving the home, but not applying standards to build in historic districts.  However, a ruling on whether the City owes the McDowells or the Sapienzas anything has not been made at this time.  A City spokesperson says the City is not commenting on this at this time. 

Johnson says the Sapienzas do have the choice to appeal this decision.

“I hope it isn’t going to continue because I think the decision was well-reasoned.  It’s 29 pages.  The court spent a lot of time detailing its rationale, and I think it will stand,” Johnson said. 

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