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Neighbor to site of proposed city homeless shelter adds city as defendant in its lawsuit

Neighbor to site of proposed city homeless shelter adds city as defendant in its lawsuit

As expected given a judge’s ruling last week, the owner of a business near the site chosen for a city-owned temporary men’s homeless shelter on Tuesday amended a lawsuit intended to block the sale of the building, this time adding the city of Madison as a defendant.

On Friday, Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn denied a motion for a temporary order that would have barred the sale of the former Gander Mountain sporting goods and Savers store at 2002 Zeier Road to the city for $2.6 million. The lawsuit, brought by Moving to the Music dance studio at 2001 Zeier Road, at that point had named the building’s current owner, BIP Enterprises, as the sole defendant.

Bailey-Rihn said BIP is not the party that would be in violation of restrictive covenants that have existed in the business area east of East Towne since the late 1980s that would effectively bar the opening of a homeless shelter. She said if the city were a defendant in the lawsuit, “that’s a different story.”

There was no immediate comment from the office of Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

The lawsuit alleges that BIP and the city failed to seek approval for the plan to open the shelter from a three-person Design Committee specified in a 1987 document created when the land was sold for development by Raymond and Loraine Zeier. And if it had, the lawsuit states, it’s unlikely a homeless shelter would have been approved, because the covenants bar uses in the area that are not retail or commercial enterprises.

The Design Committee is currently made up of Loraine Zeier and her son, Dennis. A city representative on the committee is typically filled by the city’s Urban Design Commission secretary, but that position is currently vacant so interim UDC secretary Kevin Firchow is stepping into the committee role.

The lawsuit states those who are “attempting or threatening” to violate the covenants face the possibility of legal action by the owner of any other property in the area governed by the covenants.

Moving to the Music’s attorney, Eric McLeod, said during Friday’s hearing that BIP is threatening to violate the covenants by selling the property to the city for a planned homeless shelter, but Bailey-Rihn ruled the city is planning to open the shelter, not BIP.

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