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Eagle School Lawsuit Dismissal Upheld

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a Circuit Court ruling on the case brought by two local residents over Farmington Public Schools sale of the building to the Islamic Cultural Center.

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed a trial court's ruling that dismissed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the sale of Eagle Elementary School to the Islamic Cultural Association (ICA).

The former Farmington Public Schools building at 14 Mile Road west of Middlebelt Road was sold in November to the ICA for $1.1 million. The group plans to operate a mosque and cultural center on the site.

"We are pleased to hear of the appellate court decision," Superintendent Susan Zurvalec wrote in a release.

"We hope this puts us a step closer to resolving this matter. This would make available to the students of our district the funds of the sale which are in excess of one million dollars that are intended to support teaching and learning."

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Rae Lee Chabot dismissed the case in September, ruling that plantiffs Eugene Greenstein and Melvin Sternfeld did not demonstrate that they would be harmed by the sale of the closed building.

Sternfeld, a real estate professional living in the West Bloomfield neighborhood just north of the site, wrote in an affidavit that he was told the school was to be demolished and was not for sale or lease. 

Sternfeld also favored the original demolition plans for the building, which would have allowed for community use of surviving playgrounds and ball fields.

The unpublished opinion describes his claims about having potential clients who were interested in purchasing the property as "vague and speculative". The court ruled that there was no "adverse interest" to challenge the sale, given either his status or the neighborhood in which he lives.

"Sternfeld did not assert that he actually used or hoped to use Eagle’s ball fields or playgrounds, nor did he aver that the sale to ICA would have an impact, negative or otherwise, on his home, life, or activities because of the close proximity of his home to Eagle," according to the opinion.

Attorney Shereef Akeel, who represents the ICA, was pleased with the outcome.

"The plantiffs needed to demonstrate that they had legal standing to pursue the lawsuit and courts have said that the two (plantiffs) could not trace harm to them," he said.

"We're looking to move on." 

Public debate over the issue has inspired some to claim that Islamophobia has played a role in opposition to the sale. 

The plantiffs now have the option of bringing the case to the Michigan Supreme Court, Zurvalec wrote. Funds from the sale remain in escrow until litigation is finalized.

Attorney Robert Davis, who represented Sternfeld and Greenstein in the appeal, did not return a call seeking comment.

Patch local editor Joni Hubred-Golden contributed to this report.

Susie Hensoldt September 21, 2012 at 09:52 PM
FPS pulled a fast one! No other companies even had a chance to bid on the property! Shame on you FPS!
Timothy Rath (Editor) September 21, 2012 at 11:33 PM
The story has been updated with comment from Shereef Akeel.
Brian Golden September 22, 2012 at 03:58 AM
If anyone had bothered to FOIA the documents of this case they'd find that the school district was completely within their rights and acted accordingly. I think the people who are pursuing this lawsuit should stop and consider what they are doing to the district. The monies from the sale are being held in escrow. That's a shame.
Darren Whittaker September 22, 2012 at 06:56 PM
I know! When all they had to do was ask YOU! Your being the be-all and end-all for "accurate" information... Let's put ALL of the school district's decisions up for vote by everyone...THAT should make things better! Your slander of the (mostly) good people who work quite hard for POSITIVE results at the school system is ridiculous and shameful. I think it quite obvious that it is YOU that has a "personal agenda", and the reason the overwhelming majority of citizens vote the way they do is that they are unswayed by ludicrous and unsupported propaganda. Thankfully.
Janis Sattler-Fried September 23, 2012 at 08:55 AM
Board of Education members are voted in by the tax payers of Farmington and Farmington Hills. They have a code of ethics and bylaws in which they failed to follow. There was no public notification of intent to sell Eagle, which was gifted by the Eagle family and told to be returned when it would no longer be a school. We are allowed to select whom we sell our private homes to. The board had an obligation to inform, and to take into consideration all offers. By telling all interested parties ( especially the minister who saved his emails from the now , "retired" secy from F. Hills schools who told him that the school was not for sale and was not in sale-able condition.) This interest was NEVER documented as being discussed at ANY of the "Board meetings". I resent not having a taxpayer "voice" and that it was done so underhanded. I am very disappointed in the judge's poor decision to reward the board who should and hopefully will, be all voted OUT! I do not want a 4 story cultural building near my residence! I would gladly embrace the church, the drug store, the park, the shopping center that COULD have been built IF THE BOARD HAD BEEN HONEST AND INFORMED THE TAXPAYERS OF THE INTENT TO SELL> Make certain we force the firing of the districts LEGAL representation and voting out of the BOARDS president. Shame on them and our legal system.
Janis Sattler-Fried September 23, 2012 at 08:59 AM
These decisions are NOT made by the school district employees. Farmington teachers do not have a voice unless selected for committee work and then, the final decisions are made by the BOARD OF EDUCATION . These members are NOT members of the Farmington Teachers Association.
Darren Whittaker September 23, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Yes - they are elected by the taxpayers - to make informed decisions that best benefit the school system and it's employees and students. They were NOT elected to waffle, vacillate or base their decisions upon the rants of a minority group who happens to yell the loudest. Yes - they have certain guidelines they must take into consideration - and they've pointed out that they followed the very letter of these guidelines in making their decision here. The review is a matter of public record. You state you would "gladly embrace" a church, drug store or shopping center in the very same spot (any of which would have the same or greater impact than what is proposed) ... but an Islamic center - you're not so comfortable with. What does that say about you? The taxpayers (including you) have a voice, and it is exercised at the polls. Now, when the majority speaks and it doesn't jibe with your wishes...somehow that process was flawed. Same goes for the courts. More than once, the very courts the opposition appealed to made their decision - and it was not what they/you wanted. If you had any shred of evidence to support your claims of serious malfeasance, I have yet to see any. What you do present is hearsay, gossip, and innuendo, amplified by conjecture and a personal agenda. Sorry...not good enough.
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 12:52 PM
A comment was removed for a violation of Terms of Use, which you may review here: http://farmington-mi.patch.com/terms. We welcome a healthy discussion, but please refrain from name-calling.
Ron November 16, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Maybe they should look at when the conversation first started with the agent .... Hmmm. The question one might ask is if there is the time in compliance???

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