An amended complaint by the heirs of Adam and Rebecca Krumrine has been dismissed, clearing the way for Penn State to purchase the College Heights School building from the State College Area School District.
Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler on Wednesday sustained an objection to the suit filed by heirs C. William Garner, Helen Garbrick, Michael R. Homan, George T. Homan and Edward W. Homan.
“We are pleased with the decision,” SCASD attorney Scott Etter said in an email, “and will continue to move forward with the proposed sale to Penn State.”
Debate over the future of the school building began in July, when the State College Borough Council waived right of first refusal in purchasing the building, clearing the way for the district to sell it to Penn State. The university previously has said it intends to use the building to house its University Press.
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The Krumrine heirs filed suit to block the sale, saying that “because the defendant is no longer using the subject property for ‘school purposes,’ said property reverts to plaintiffs.”
The district disputed the suit, saying “the ‘used for school purposes’ language is ‘superfluous’ and doesn’t spell out that the property would have to be returned if a building used as a school stopped being used as a school.”
According to the deed to the property delivered to the district by the Krumrines, the “plot of ground is to be used for school purposes and a school building is to be erected thereon by Sept. 1, 1931. If no school building is erected by Sept. 1, 1931, this 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.”
The building, also known as College Heights Elementary School, was built before the deadline and remains on the parcel owned by the district. The district received an offer in late 2013 from Penn State to purchase the property for $400,000.
According to the decision, when a grantor deeds a land with no limitations on ownership or title, the grantee has acquired an estate in fee simple, which can last indefinitely.
A grantor also has the right to reserve an interest in an estate for himself or his heirs, the decision said, such as a fee simple determinable — an estate “in fee that automatically reverts to the grantor upon the occurrence of a specified event.”
In the deed, the first sentence “expresses the purpose of the deeds and does not create a reversionary effect,” the decision said. While the second sentence includes language that would reverse the property to the heirs, this only would have occurred if no school had been built by the deadline.
“There is no connection between the reverter clause and the superfluous language of the deeds that the land be used ‘for school purposes,’ ” the decision said.
The heirs are not disputing that a school building was built on the property, the decision said. With this condition satisfied, there is no reverse interest in the estate. Therefore, the district possessed the title in fee simple.
The decision further stated that a sale to Penn State would not violate the “for school purposes” clause.
Attorney for the heirs, C. William Garner, of Williamsport, could not be reached for comment.
“We plan to proceed to complete the purchase of the property after the holiday break and improve it for University Press occupancy,” Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in an email. She could not give a timeline.