Woman sues city for demolishing chapel

Kelly Holleran Apr. 14, 2009, 8:54am

A Beaumont woman has filed suit against the city, alleging it violated her rights when it tore down her funeral chapel.

Yvonne Como says the city began demolishing her building located at 1685 Park St. in Beaumont in December 2007, even though the Jefferson County Appraisal District rated the building's condition as fair on April 30, 2007.

The JCAD appraised the value of the funeral chapel at $258,370, according to the complaint filed April 9 in Jefferson County District Court.

However, on May 29, 2007, Beaumont City Council issued an order condemning the building, saying it was a dangerous structure, the suit states.

On Nov. 8, 2007, Beaumont awarded a contract for demolition and a demolition permit was issued on Dec. 4, 2007, Como claims.

Before demolition began, Como claims she wrote to the city March 13, 2007, asking for public information related to the anticipated demolition. However, Beaumont failed to respond to her request, according to the complaint.

The chapel was completely demolished by Jan. 30, 2008, the suit states.

In addition to demolishing the building, Como alleges the city also destroyed 60 12-foot pews with kneelers, worth about $150 each.

Even though Como requested compensation on Oct. 15 for the fair market value of her pews and for Beaumont's unlawful entry and destruction of the funeral chapel, she claims the city has failed to reimburse her.

Como is asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that the city has violated her rights and to issue a writ of mandamus ordering the city to comply with the Texas Public Information Act.

She is also seeking actual damages, attorney's fees, pre-judgment interest and other relief to which she may be entitled.

Scott Newar of Houston will be representing her.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham of the 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A183-753.

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