State College School District Asks Court to Dismiss College Heights Lawsuit
In another round of legal filings, the State College Area School District is asking a court to dismiss a lawsuit in a dispute over ownership of the College Heights School.
The suit was filed by five people -- all claiming to be heirs of a couple who donated land to the district in the 1920s -- for construction of the school.
The group is disputing the school district's plan to sell the school building to Penn State University.
C. William Garner, Helen Garbrock, Michael Homan, George Homan and Edward Homan claim in the suit that if the district no longer uses the property for "school purposes," ownership should revert back to the family.
In 1922, Adam and Rebecca Krumrine sold the land to the district for $1 allowing the district to build the school. The plaintiffs claim to be the Krumrines' great grandchildren.
The College Heights School was built in 1931 and was once an elementary school. The property, located at 721 N Atherton St., includes a 14,000 square foot structure sitting on two acres.
In January, the university agreed to pay the school district $400,000 for the property to house University Press offices, which the district hasn't used as a school in years.
The plaintiffs argue the pending sale to Penn State violates the deeds on the property.
However, the district argues the lawsuit is invalid in part because the sale has not yet occurred and therefore, the plaintiffs' claims are premature. The district also argues that Penn State's use of the property would still qualify as "school purposes."
The district also argues the deeds do not include any language supporting plaintiffs' claim that the property should revert back to the family because the district met the requirement to construct a school at the site.
"The only language of reversion to be contained in either deed by plaintiffs' amended complaint refers solely to the erection of a school building, which plaintiffs' amended complaint admits occurred," the district argues.
At the same time, the plaintiffs argue, "Defendant is no longer using subject property for 'school purposes. Accordingly, said property reverts to plaintiffs', the heirs of Adam H. Krumrine and Rebecca Krumrine, by virtue of the aforesaid covenants and conditions."
There are multiple deeds to the property, one drafted in 1922 saying the site must be used for "school purposes" and a school constructed at the site by Jan. 1, 1927 otherwise "the deed is to be null and void and of no effect, full title to the property to revert to the grantors, their heirs and assigns."
In 1926, another deed was drafted extending the timeline to construct the school to Sept. 1, 1931. The school was built that year.
Before the university could buy the property, the district had to allow State College Borough right of first refusal. After six months and several public meetings, borough council voted not to exercise its right to purchase the property. Shortly afterwards, the family filed its lawsuit against the district.
The university says the non-profit press does not print books on site. It has roughly 30 employees and operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an occasional event, such as a book signing, after hours.
The building has a slew of issues due to its age, such as asbestos, radon, inadequate insulation and more. The university predicted 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.