Rebuild or remove. That’s what the South Dakota Supreme Court is telling the owners of a large and controversial house in McKennan Park. The Sioux Falls case began as a dispute between neighbors about three years ago. On Thursday, the state’s highest court issued a decision, saying the house has to meet historical standards.

Though the house has stood firm on its foundation, this case has moved from one court to another over the years. The McDowell family sued their next door neighbors, the Sapienzas, claiming the house they built was too large, too wide, and violated standards.  They also said the house was too close to their chimney, and prevented them from using their fireplace.  Last year, Circuit Court Judge John Pekas agreed, and said the Sapienzas must make their house comply by reducing the height of their home and by moving it away from the McDowells’ house.  The Sapienzas appealed that decision, which brings us to present day. 

According to the McDowells’ attorney, Steve Johnson, the high court’s decision forces the Sapienzas to make their house comply with standards set by the Board of Historic Preservation. 

“Therefore, for them to comply with the Court’s unanimous decision, they would have to go back in front of the Board and re-tool, redesign, reconstruct the entire house,” Johnson said. 

If that doesn’t happen, Johnson says the family will have to remove the house. 

“If it can’t be moved, it would have to be dismantled and removed that way,” Johnson said.

The Sapienzas have 20 days to file for another hearing with the Supreme Court before this decision is finalized. After that, it’s up to Judge Pekas to enforce this and make sure the Sapienzas follow orders. Johnson says, beyond this decision, there is a possibility for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, he doesn’t believe that court would take the case. 

Thus far, the Sapienzas have remained quiet about what they’re going to do. Their attorney, Dick Travis, did not return a request for an interview or statement. As for the McDowell family, Johnson says they’re happy with this conclusion. 

“That’s the end of it. We believed all along that was going to be the result,” Johnson said. 

The City of Sioux Falls was also named in this case. The McDowells’ previously sued the City, alleging negligence for issuing a building permit and not enforcing regulations. 

Judge Pekas said the City owed the McDowells’ a “duty” to properly enforce building codes. The Supreme Court did not uphold that decision and cited a previous case that found city governments are not responsible for making sure every building complies with codes.