Old Town

Association Fights Chicago Family's Plan to Renovate Garage For Daughter in Wheelchair

The family filed a lawsuit against the Old Town Triangle Association, alleging harassment

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The family that owns a property in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood has filed a federal lawsuit against a neighborhood association, the latest step in a bitter feud over whether or not the family can build a garage that would accommodate their daughter who uses a wheelchair.

Bill Deakin and Lisa Diehlmann bought the property in question in 2015 and planned to renovate the inside to make it barrier-free for their daughter, Ava. They also hoped to design a garage that would help Ava get into the house, and hoped to make it fit the overall aesthetic of the Old Town Triangle neighborhood.

Ava said it's very difficult for her to walk up their current stairs, and being able to get in through a ramp would be highly beneficial.

Deakin and Diehlmann said they went through a multi-year process with the city of Chicago's Historical Department on the design and received a permit from the city.

However, the Old Town Triangle Association argued the garage would be out of character with the rest of the homes, and construction stalled due to a lawsuit.

"They're beautiful homes from the 1800s," said Amy Kurson, the attorney for the Old Town Association. "What this family has done is proposed to put up a garage up on the front lawn next to those beautiful homes."

As first reported by Block Club Chicago, the family recently filed a lawsuit against the association in federal court alleging harassment. Diehlmann referred to the association as "incredibly angry and unwelcoming."

The Old Town Triangle Association called the allegations insulting, and even said it offered a compromise.

"This organization would have worked with the parents to create an accommodation that would meet her needs and preserve the historic character of the property," said Kurson, the association's attorney. "Her parents categorically refused to consider that compromise and instead chose to weaponize her disability to get what they want."

The family said it was initially on board with the association’s compromise.  However, Deakin said the proposal was revised to the point where the family could no longer support it.

“The plan deleted the barrier-free living areas for Ava – accessible bathrooms, accessible bedroom and access to the upper floors,” Deakin said.

Deakin, Diehlmann and Ava hope to move into the home next summer.

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