A lawsuit over the ownership of the former Crafty Fox building on Main Street in downtown Mitchell is expected to continue into 2021.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol last month granted a joint motion to extend the case. The case is scheduled to have discovery, depositions and any additional motions filed by January 2021.
While the two sides could reach a settlement or agreement ahead of time, a jury trial is scheduled for July 27, 2021, in Sioux Falls.
The former owners, Janice and Ronald Christsensen, initially sued the city of Mitchell and the Mitchell Area Development Corporation on Nov. 14, 2019. They owned the Crafty Fox arts and crafts store at 223 N. Main St. in downtown Mitchell.
The Mitchell City Council approved an agreement in July 2019 to purchase the building from the Christensens for $1 with the intention of making repairs for approximately $150,000 and selling the building afterward. The agreement allowed the Christensens until Oct. 15 to find another buyer. When that date passed, the city planned to transfer ownership of the building to the MADC, but that never happened.
The Christensens' original complaint argues that the city used the threat of jail time or fines from the nuisance complaint to push them to sell the building for $1, which they argue was insufficient compensation, and to close their business. They're requesting damages in excess of $500,000 for claims against the city, two of which also name the MADC as a defendant.
In December 2019, the city and the MADC countersued the Christensens, saying that the Christensens did not hold up their side of the contract.
The counterclaim states the Christensens have failed to provide free and clear title to the property, which is under mortgages of over $100,000; that Western on Main has failed to pay $7,125.99 in past due and accruing property and Business Improvement District taxes; and that the Christensens have failed to remove personal property from the building but did remove air conditioning units and heating pumps in which the city had an interest after acquiring the building.
It has been a quiet 2020 for the case in federal court, aside from some changes in attorneys on each side of the matter. The Christensens and their business companies are now solely represented by Mitchell attorney James Taylor, with that change noticed on Sept. 16.
Attorney William Garry, of Sioux Falls, is representing the city in the matter, while Mitchell-based attorneys Timothy Bottum and Richard J. Rylance are representing the MADC.