Delano woman faces legal battle over possible age discrimination

8:25 PM, Jul 25, 2012   |    comments
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DELANO, Minn. - A battle is brewing between a Delano woman who now is coming under fire from the city and community after she bought a townhome in a senior development.

First grade teacher Kerri Doyle, 46, bought the home in Kings Point in Delano in November 2011. The problem is that Kings Point is reserved to residents 55 and older.

"My realtor never told me I should not move in," said Doyle.

The realtor who handled Doyle's home purchase declined to be interviewed by KARE 11. Doyle claimed the realtor told her she could move in, despite the age requirement.

Presently, the city of Delano filed a lawsuit in Wright County naming Doyle, Developer Cottage Homesteads and builder Home Pro Partners. The suit claims that Delano "will suffer damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but believed to be in excess of $50,000, as well as costs and attorney's fees."

No trial date is set.

Mark Johnson, Delano's attorney, told KARE 11 that it is necessary to protect the Kings Point Certification under federal law as an exception to age discrimination.

Federal law provides such "certification" to allow senior housing developments to exist so long as at least 80 percent of those in residence are 55 or older.

However, Developer Roger Derrick of Cottage Homesteads insists that the law is "silent" about the other 20 percent of residents.

"In the two dozen developments we have done in 20 years, this has never come up before, but all of a sudden, the city said 'Well, she is not old enough. She has to move,'" said Derrick.

Derrick disputes the claim that Delano would suffer any damages from Doyle's occupancy.

"The only financial loss they are going to have is whatever they are cooking up to try to get her out," said Derrick.

The Kings Point Townhome Association was asked to grant Doyle a waiver from their bylaws and allow her to stay. They declined earlier this year; however, the association leadership insisted they mean no harm to Doyle.

"Basically, our position is to protect the senior citizen status of the development," said John McCashin, Association President.

His statement was backed up by board member Donnie Anderson.

"We are not on a witch hunt. We are just trying to protect our 55 plus status," Anderson said.

The association's bylaws allow persons younger than 55 to be part of the 20 percent of residents, but only if they are between the ages of 48 and 55.

Roger Derrick admitted to KARE 11 that the 48-year-old minimum age was something his company inserted in the bylaws of such developments, but it had no basis in federal statute.

The simplest resolution of the city's issue of Doyle's residence would be for her to move, but according to Delano City attorney Johnson there could be other "cures," although he could not be specific.

Since the issue is "occupancy" rather than "ownership", a possibility under consideration was having someone 55 or older, share the home with Doyle. She had considered that remedy, possibly having her mother move in, but said she was told that would not be sufficient.

This is the first home for the first-grade teacher in the Orono district. She is getting a lesson in real estate law and age discrimination.

"I do not purposely do things like this. If you talk to any of the people I was speaking with before I even closed, I had all these concerns and I was asking the right questions. I guess I was naïve in believing that I could trust the people that I was working with," Doyle said.

"I just want to be out of it," she added. "I was willing to just move if they would not make me pay. I cannot afford that money."

Doyle faces fines of $1,000 a month from the Townhome Association and the unknown amount of $50,000 plus from the city.

The association officials told KARE 11 that they "made up" the $1,000 fine amount just to get Doyle's attention.

Roger Derrick said he asked Delano officials if he organized a petition or write-in campaign of Delano residents in support of Doyle staying in her home, would that make any difference?

Derrick said he was told it would not make a difference in the decision to pursue the lawsuit.

Johnson told KARE 11 that he hopes that Doyle and the city can come to some resolution of the issue, but offered no specific remedy other than Doyle moving out of King's Point.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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