State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Heirs Lose Court Battle Over Former College Heights Elementary School

by on December 12, 2014 6:00 AM

The legal battle to decide who gets dibs on the old College Heights Elementary School ends with a judge dismissing claims filed by heirs of the property's original owners.

in an order filed in Centre County Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday, Judge Thomas Kistler dismissed a lawsuit filed by C. William Garner, Helen Garbrock, Michael Homan, George Homan and Edward Homan.

And that clears the way for the State College School District to sell the property to Penn State.

"We're obviously pleased with this decision," says Scott Etter, the school district's solicitor. "We were confident in our position all along. ... Our intention to this point forward is to continue the process that we had previously started to sell the parcel to the university."

Nearly a century ago, the disputed property, at 721 North Atherton St., belonged to Adam and Rebecca Krimrine. The couple donated the site, with a provision requiring that the land be used for a specific purpose.

The court case came down to the intent of the original deed, filed in 1922 and a second deed filed in 1926. Both deeds, stated the property "is to be used for school purposes," with a deadline for erecting a school building set for Jan. 1 1927. The deadline was extended to Sept. 1 1931 in the second revised deed.

In January, Penn State agreed to pay the school district $400,000 for the property which includes the 14,000 square foot former school building and two acres of prime real estate. Penn State wants to use the building to house University Press offices. University Press is a non-profit and would not print books on site.

When the school district announced the deal, the Krumrines' heirs filed suit, claiming the deed provision had been broken and that the property should revert back to the family.

However, Kistler ruled that the deed would have been broken "only if no school had been erected." The school building was completed before the Sept. 1931 deadline. The ruling says, "With this condition being satisfied, the Grantors, their heirs, and assigns no longer had a reversionary interest ..."

Furthermore, Kistler ruled the heirs had no claim because the property had not actually been sold, and even if it had, a sale to Penn State "would not violate the 'for school purposes' clause ..."

The attorney representing the Krumrine's heirs could not immediately be reached for comment.

The school district still has to file a petition asking the courts to approve the sale. Etter says he would expect that to happen over the next month or two.

The building has not been used as a school for years and has a slew of issues due to its age, including asbestos, radon, inadequate insulation. The university has previously said it would have to spend roughly $600,000 on renovations immediately and then another $1 million over time. The agreement with the school district also includes a clause requiring that Penn State not sell or lease the property to another K-12 institution for 20 years, which would create competition for the school district.

Despite the months-long legal dispute the university's interest in the College Heights property remains unchanged.

"We plan to proceed to complete the purchase of the property after the holiday break, says Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers." There is no specific time frame right now, since word has just reached us."

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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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