Couple Is Devastated When Judge Rules They Have To Knock Down House With A Wrecking Ball

Updated October 16, 2017

Whether you live in the nicest neighborhood or the worst, there will always be drama amongst one of your neighbors. Let’s just hope that you aren’t right next door to them. And let’s hope that you don’t build your dream home.

Pierce and Barbara McDowell sued their next-door neighbors for building a home that was far too close to their’s, a mere seven feet away. The South Dakota home was reconstructed by Josh and Sarah Sapienza and evidently, it was so big that it prevented the McDowell’s from using their fire place and blocked out their natural light. Evidently, the newly constructed four bedroom home, violates the historic requirements of the McKennan Park Historic District, and the McDowell’s have been told to reconstruct or relocate by a judge. A fire inspector even told the couple that they were not allowed to use their fire place because it wasn’t ten feet away from their neighbors extravagant new home.

“The Sapienzas have violated historic requirements in the McKennan Park Historic District, which disrupts the character of the neighborhood and does not fit the size and space requirements under current regulations,” said Judge John Pekas, who ruled in favor of the McDowells one year after the battle began. In addition, Pekas informed them that the addition of house lowers the historic and monetary value as it breaches the space and size requirements and goes against the character of the neighborhood.

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So, at this point, the Sapienzas have three options…chop eight feet off the top of the house, bring in the wrecking ball, or relocate. Not the best options for someone who just dedicated countless time and money designing their dream home.

But, this isn’t the first time that the Sapienzas have been warned. During construction, the McDowells sent them a cease and desist letter warning them that they would take legal action if the couple continued with the construction. The Sapienzas wanted no part of the letter and chose to ignore it, going forward with building the home and disregarding the McDowell’s entirely.

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

In support of their claims, Judge Pekas, The McDowells, and Johnson, have all cited historic district standards, but the one glitch is the fact that the city of Sioux Falls had approved the construction of the home prior to the start of the project. Unfortunately, the city didn’t take federal standards into account when building in historic districts, which means that they may have made a negligent decision.

At this point in the case, there hasn’t been a ruling on whether or not the city owes anyone anything. The Sapienzas, on the other hand, have been given the chance to appeal, and if their wish is granted then they can continue to live only seven feet from their disgruntled neighbors.