La Crosse couple suing to save home built for their disabilities

A La Crosse couple may not be able to live in a new home built specifically to accommodate their special needs. The city’s zoning board said they need to make some changes, but the couple argues that’s not possible.

It was a 37th wedding anniversary and birthday they never wanted to forget.

“The house was hurting us more than it was helping us,” said Jeannie Nylander. She said she had suffered injuries multiple times in their previous home.

While it hurt to let go of their old home, Jeff and Jeanie Nylander were eager for their new, custom-built home to arrive.

“We were just grateful they were willing to help,” Nylander said.

The Tomah V.A. helped them secure a grant to build a house that could accommodate Jeff’s mobility needs and other features for Jeannie, who is blind. That was in July.

“After that time, the contractors ran into some snags with the flood plain,” said Jeff Nylander, Jeannie’s husband.

A handicap-accessible ramp and garage area were not up to code. So they needed to request a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

“They approved the ramp in the front of the house, but they denied the driveway in the back,” Nylander said.

The Nylanders argue it wouldn’t be feasible for them to elevate the garage.

“Jeannie and I are disabled. And we can’t get up and down what they’re asking to have put in,” Nylander said. He said Jeannie’s guide dog wouldn’t help her navigate a slope that steep.

“I need a home that’s safe. And Jeff needs a home that’s safe so that we can be together,” Jeannie Nylander said.

The couple has been able to move in, but they’re worried they could be kicked out. They said the city only granted a temporary living permit because it is not up to code.

“I don’t understand why if it was OK’ed on paper and if they did everything they said on paper and they OK’ed it, wouldn’t that mean it would be ok now,” Nylander said.

So they’re bringing the matter to court. The Nylanders’ attorney is going to argue the board acted arbitrarily and should have granted the variance for the garage.

“We just keep asking why. Why can’t you give us this,” Jeff Nylander said.

The Board of Zoning Appeals issued a statement through its lawyer:

“The landowners’ disagreed with the Board’s decision, which cannot be based on public opinion, and filed a lawsuit against the Board. The Board’s decision follows the law and we look forward to the Court’s decision on this matter.”

The Nylanders’ attorney said the La Crosse County Circuit Court will be reviewing the board’s decision. A decision is expected to be made in June.

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