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Dunbar Township couple appeal dismissal of retaliation suit

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012

A Dunbar Township couple have appealed the dismissal of a federal lawsuit in which they claimed they were targets of political retaliation for repeatedly challenging zoning decisions involving a historic mansion.

Terry and Diane Kriss, owners of the Isaac Meason House, on Monday filed notice of their appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

The couple sued Fayette County commissioners Vincent Vicites and Vincent Zapotosky, zoning official Sara Rosiek, the county airport authority and authority chairman Terry Shallenberger in January 2011 over zoning rulings involving the 18th-century Dunbar Township landmark.

The Georgian-style mansion was built in 1802 by Meason, a Revolutionary War veteran, ironmaster and slaveholder. It is believed to be the first house west of the Allegheny Mountains to be designed by an architect and is registered as a national historic landmark.

The Krisses have been involved in a 15-year dispute with the Cellurale family, who operate several businesses surrounding the Meason House. The Cellurales were not named as defendants in the suit.

The Krisses claim the businesses have reduced the value of the home from $750,000 to $350,000. They also allege they have been subjected to political intrigue, illegal wiretaps, break-ins and errant gunshots because of their challenges.

In October, U.S. District Judge David Cercone dismissed the lawsuit, finding that each zoning ruling was separate and distinct from the others and could not be cobbled together to prove it was part of a continuing violation.

The Krisses had until Nov. 14 to file an amended complaint but failed to do so. Cercone dismissed the case in December.

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