Lawsuit over tiny house reaches settlement
A lawsuit over a St. Cloud church's "tiny house" was recently settled, with the church replacing the 132-square-foot house with a larger one that meets state building codes.
St. John's Episcopal Church celebrated a groundbreaking Oct. 3 for the building, which will house one homeless person at a time starting next spring.
"It's a win for the homeless community, it's a win for the church and their mission and it's a win for the city and the community," said Bob Feigh, an attorney at Gray Plant Mooty in St. Cloud, which helped represent the church and said the house is a unique addition. "This is, for Minnesota, a fairly original thing."
The church alleged in the lawsuit filed last year that the city violated its First Amendment rights after denying a request to amend the church's conditional use permit.
City leaders said at the time that their decision was based strictly on zoning and land-use issues and had nothing to do with the church or housing the homeless.
Attorneys for the church cited the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which gives churches greater rights to use their property free of zoning interference.
In the settlement, the church will sell the donated tiny RV-sized house, which sits on wheels, and replace it with a 384-square-foot house on a foundation, hooking it up to water, sewer and electricity.
The church took out a $50,000 loan to pay for construction and has set up a GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/episcopal-starfish-dwelling for donations. The labor will be donated by students from St. Cloud Technical and Community College.
One homeless person at a time will live in the house until finding permanent housing.
"We can't end homelessness," Feigh said. "But we can have an impact on those individuals we touch."
Council opts for costlier repairs to historic home
The New Ulm City Council last week approved a plan to restore a historic home with more expensive materials to preserve its place on the National Historic Register.
The Kiesling House on Minnesota Street is the only wood-frame house built before the Dakota Conflict of 1862 remaining in New Ulm. It is in need of repairs to its siding and windows, and a debate grew over whether to replace them with less expensive and more durable non-wood materials.
Supporters of the home, which serves as a historic interpretive center, worried that using the non-wood materials would challenge the historic integrity of the house and jeopardize its place on the National Register.
The city's Park and Recreation Commission recommended the cheaper option after expressing concern that applying for federal and state grants for the repairs could limit local control.
The city's Heritage Preservation Commission, however, recommended the more costly approach.
With two members absent, the City Council voted 3-0 on Tuesday to approve using the more expensive materials.
Work on the project could begin as early as this fall.