The McDowell–Sapienza McKennan Park McMansion melee is going to court. The McDowells, who were there first, have been complaining about their new neighbors the Sapienzas, who took out an 1,811-square-feet house that folks said didn’t fit the historic character of Sioux Falls’ nicest old neighborhood and started building a 45-foot-tall, 5,000-square-foot house that blocks the McDowells’ sunlight. The conflict heated up when the city shut down the McDowell’s fireplace:
…the McDowells have been stopped from using their wood-burning fireplace because its chimney now is too close to the house being built by Joseph “Josh” Sapienza and Sarah Jones Sapienza.
It also is not tall enough, the McDowells were informed, since the chimney no longer extends two feet above the maximum height of the Sapienza residence.
Steve Johnson, a lawyer representing the McDowells, said the city informed the couple last week that they could no longer use their fireplace because the houses are only seven feet apart. The city has an ordinance that prohibits the use of a fireplace if another home is within 10 feet, he said [Jill Callison, “City Says It’s Caught in Middle of ‘McMansion’ Lawsuit,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.05.15].
The McDowells, who were there first, are thus suing the city for issuing the Sapienzas a building permit for a house that “violated zoning restrictions and adversely impacted the McDowell house.”
Sioux Falls city attorney David Pfeifle utters this nonsense:
It was his hope, Pfeifle said, the suit would “spur more meaningful discussion” and the McDowells and Sapienzas would be able to resolve the issue [Callison, 2015.05.15].
The meaningful discussion should have taken place between the city and the Sapienzas before the city issued its permit. The city should have recognized that the Sapienzas were planning to build a house that would put the McDowells, who were there first, in violation of code. I’m all about property rights, but you don’t get to do something with your property that puts my use of my property in violation of existing code. The City of Sioux Falls has essentially taken the McDowells’ fireplace for the private gain of the Sapienzas (wow! it’s just like the Keystone pipelines! or us and the Indians!). The City of Sioux Falls should give back the McDowells’ property rights and stop the Sapienzas’ construction until the Sapienzas can bring their project into compliance with code without negatively impacting their new neighbors, the folks who were there first.