Convicted grand thief Vitaliy “Vick” Strizheus and his wife Nataliya started building a 3,982-square-foot, four-bed, five-bath mansion on three lots at 6800 S. Westfield Trail in Sioux Falls’ swanky Prairie Hills neighborhood ten years ago. But evidently building something real and valuable is a lot harder for Vick than tricking people into buying his online marketing training, and the three-lot house has sat unfinished and abandoned for much of the past decade. The City of Sioux Falls has tried to relieve the Strizheuses’ well-to-do neighbors of this dangerous eyesore for years, and a South Dakota Supreme Court ruling last December cleared the way for the city to finally roll the bulldozers.
But now the Strizheuses are crying to federal court that the city is discriminating against them because they are Ukrainian. In a suit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota, the Strizheuses say city attorney Stacy Kooistra and building inspection chief Neil King have conspired to violate their Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that the Strizheuses’ national origin “was a substantial motivating factor in Defendants’ drive to demolish the Plaintiffs’ home.” The Strizheuses assert that Kooistra and King have referred to their national origin and the “Russian Mafia” in meetings with their lawyers, suggested that some neighbors don’t want Ukrainians in the neighborhood, and engaged neighbors in lying to the state circuit court. The complaint also alleges that the city more frequently cites and demolishes structures owned or occupied by “persons within constitutionally protected classes.”
So check that out: millionaires who can’t keep the finances flowing to build a giant second house are trying to turn their fight against the city’s enforcement of building codes into a massive civil rights scandal, saying that not just they but numerous other property-owning members of minorities are being discriminated against by the City of Sioux Falls.
In an affidavit accompanying Friday’s complaint, contractor Ben Harvey says he’s been working for the Strizheuses to complete the house since December 1, 2021, under seven approved permits. Harvey says the Strizheuses have invested $2.3 million in his work so far, which has included finishing the exterior. Harvey says he can finish the interior by the end of this year.
In another affidavit, realtor Shelley Glaser estimates the house could sell for $2.75 million.
The plaintiffs claim demolition of the home is an excessive fine (8th Amendment) and unjust taking without compensation (5th Amendment). They also claim that the home doesn’t meet the definition of “deteriorated, dilapidated, or out of repair” in the city code that justifies demolition. Alas, as appears to have been the case in the Strizheuses’ lazy responses to the city’s winning arguments to the South Dakota Supreme Court, city code also allows demolition of projects where there is a “cessation of construction… for a period of more than 18 months”. Senior assistant city attorney Ryan Sage (who is not named in this federal lawsuit) explained that point to SDPB last month:
“If there’s a cessation of normal construction for a period of more than 18 months, then the code official should order that the structure be demolished and remove the structure,” said Ryan Sage, senior assistant city attorney. “So that’s not necessarily under the dilapidated portion (of the ordinance), but it’s that construction has ceased, and so we moved forward with enforcing the ordinance at that point.”
…Even though construction has resumed, Sage said the city still has the right to demolish the structure according to the court ruling.
“Once the building was in violation and the city moved forward to demolish and initiate the legal proceedings, future construction did not cure the violation,” he said [Jordan Rusche, “Ruling Paves Way for Demolition of Unfinished Sioux Falls Mansion,” SDPB Radio, 2023.01.23].
Absent a preliminary injunction, the Strizheuses say the city plans to start whacking the house on February 27. Of course, if the Strizheuses had worked as fast on their house as they are this week with their lawyers, they wouldn’t be facing bulldozers. They’d be facing a nice yard with growing trees and and neighbors happy to no longer have a construction site cluttering their fancy neighborhood.
Maybe Vick should call Chad Haber and get him to help flip the house.