Homeowners, disabled residents go toe-to-toe in court, media

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Questions over a lawsuit center on a house in a Midlands community where four people with cerebral palsy live.

From the street, the house seems to fit in with all the others on Canterfield Road. But this one is the subject of a lawsuit and a more than two-year-long dispute between Coldstream homeowners and advocates for people with cerebral palsy.

The house is home to at least four disabled adults. Attorney Jake Moore represents the homeowners.

"It has changed to some extent, the nature of the neighborhood," said Moore.

Moore sued United Cerebral Palsy in 2007, accusing the organization of violating Coldstream homeowner covenants.

"The restrictions in Coldstream basically provide that the subdivision is to be single-family residences occupied by single families," said Moore.

UCP's South Carolina director fired back, calling the suit "frivolous" and costly, forcing the organization to rack up more than $43,000 in legal fees.

Diana Wilush went a step further in a news release this week, citing what she said is "insensitivity to less fortunate members of our community."

Wilush says opposition to the home sends a message to people with disabilities that "we do not value them at all."

Deborah Royer disagrees. Her husband is a disabled veteran, and they have lived in the Coldstream neighborhood for nine years.

"This is like a halfway house, and it's a training facility for people to train others to take care of people with disabilities," said Royer. "I'm totally not against that, but I just think that there's a better place for that rather in a residential area."

The legal process eventually took an unexpected turn when Moore and the homeowners indicated they wanted to drop the lawsuit, believing there wasn't very much chance that they could win.

Moore blames the government.

"Apparently the federal government is now telling the people in Coldstream they're not entitled to enjoy what they bought and paid for," said Moore.

UCP Director Diane Wilush said her organization offered to settle the suit a year ago, but the homeowners declined. She says it's likely the court will soon grant a motion to dismiss the suit without giving the cerebral palsy group any chance of recovering legal expenses.
She says that was money that could have been spent helping people in need.

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