SIOUX CITY -- A judge has ruled that the owners of a historic Rose Hill mansion that was torn down more than four years ago must reimburse the city nearly $107,000 in demolition costs.
District Judge Jeffrey Neary rejected claims that the city obstructed attempts to fix up the 125-year old house at 1529 Grandview Blvd. after it was red-tagged because of rot and other structural deficiencies in August 2013. Neary granted the city summary judgment, ruling that James Gengler and Salvador Carrasco must jointly pay the city $106,959 plus interest.
Carrasco or Gengler may appeal Neary's ruling.
Mayor Bob Scott said the ruling proves the city properly followed its procedures in red-tagging and demolishing the property.
"I think it affirms the city did everything correctly," Scott said.
Gengler lives in Sioux City, but said he may move to a community that's friendlier toward historical preservationists like himself.
"I don't enjoy litigation, and even if I was successful with an appeal it wouldn't change anything. My dream home is gone," Gengler said in a text message.
"It is time for me to stop dwelling on the past and go find a lonely and neglected home with a tall, round turret that contains large, curved panes of thick glass that need sashes built around them," Gengler said, a reference to the former Rose Hill house.
County property records show that Gengler holds the deed to the property, which remains vacant. Gengler said that as of last fall, he had heard that Carrasco was living in Mexico.
The city council granted Gengler, then Carrasco, several extensions to fix the house before the council voted in August 2015 to demolish the property after no suitable buyer who could make the necessary repairs could be found. The city sued the owners in February 2016 to recover the demolition costs as outlined in an agreement Gengler and Carrasco had signed months earlier.
Neary ruled that evidence at an April hearing showed that both Carrasco and Gengler had not fulfilled agreements to fix up the house by any of the deadlines, and neither exercised his right to request a stay of demolition after the council passed the resolution to tear down the house.
Neary noted that after Gengler financed Carrasco's purchase of the property, the city awarded Carrasco additional time to make repairs, but little was done.
Gengler had argued that the city's aggressive actions to remove dilapidated buildings were "fascist" and "oppressive" and targeted him. Neary said city evidence showed Gengler had owned several properties that were red-tagged. Some were demolished, but the red tags were lifted on others after necessary repairs were done.
"The process did not appear to be unique for Gengler," Neary said in his ruling, filed May 14 in Woodbury County District Court. "Similarly, there was no evidence at all that any other owners were handled differently regarding the fate of their red-tagged properties."