A St. Paul couple suing the city allege that it discriminated against them, violated their constitutional rights and disregarded federal law when it prevented them from demolishing a home in the Crocus Hill neighborhood.

Fred and Renee Pritzker filed suit Wednesday against the city of St. Paul in a fight over the fate of a house the couple want to demolish and rebuild to accommodate their son, who is handicapped.

The suit, filed in Ramsey County District Court, also seeks a temporary restraining order against the city that would allow the couple to proceed with demolition of the home at 27 Crocus Place.

It alleges that the city gave the couple permission to demolish the home and then backpedaled at the last minute, leaving them in limbo and in the middle of “intense and ongoing public scrutiny and controversy — a controversy with no clear end in sight.”

“… the City was aware of the Pritzkers’ plans to demolish the existing structure at 27 Crocus and build a fully accessible living space that would better accommodate [their son’s] disability,” the suit said. “… the City received pressure from citizens who wanted to prevent the demolition of the existing structure …”

Laura Pietan, St. Paul’s interim city attorney, said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune Wednesday that the law requires an environmental assessment be completed before the property can be demolished, “so the City is legally obligated to require one.

“The City,” she added, “has acted as required by law in all respects.”

The Pritzkers’ 29-year-old son has a rare neuro-genetic disorder and requires round-the-clock care and assistance with daily activities, the suit said. He is physically and developmentally disabled.

For about four years, the Pritzkers searched for a new property where they could construct a home suitable for their son’s needs. Before they purchased 27 Crocus Place, located around the corner from their current home, the Pritzkers and their real estate attorney contacted the city and were repeatedly told they could demolish the house, the suit said.

The couple bought the home in November and applied for a demolition permit the next month. The permit was issued Jan. 7, but then was revoked and later suspended, the suit said.

The Pritzkers later received a letter from the city stating they needed to complete an environmental assessment because the house was listed as a “contributing” structure to the city’s Historic Hill District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The suit argues that the house is not on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city has issued demolition permits for other properties listed as “contributing structures” to the Historic Hill District without requiring an environmental assessment, the suit said.

The Pritzkers believe the city cannot legally suspend the demolition permit and has violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

“The City engaged in wrongful conduct when it assured the Pritzkers that they could demolish the existing structure at 27 Crocus, and then continued to search for a way to prevent the demolition,” the suit said.

 

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