Archive for Thursday, December 21, 2000

Suit filed again

Local residents stand in way of site acquisition

December 21, 2000

The DeSoto school board has decided to drop the other shoe on 17 reticent, reluctant or remote neighboring landowners of the closed Monticello Kindergarten.

Monday, the board gave the district's attorney John Vratil the authority to pursue quiet title claims against the 17 property owners.

The action is "not so quiet" board member Sandra Thierer noted. The board authorized the same quiet title action last summer without realizing action is legal parlance for lawsuit. The board then dropped the action.

At issue are the neighbors' rights under a 1923 deed restriction that calls for the Monticello property to revert to the neighboring landowners should it not be used for public education.

In September, the board met with the neighboring property owners at Mill Valley High School. The board told the neighbors that the district has no further use for the building on 71st Street near Crest Street and wants to sell the 3.2 acre tract and building. Proceeds would be used for future land acquisitions.

Vratil told the neighbors there was little chance a court would find they had a claim to the Monticello property despite the deed restriction. Neighbors who had investigated the issue with their attorneys shared that assessment.

Those attending the meeting were told the district would send certified letters to all neighboring property owners requesting they sign quit claims renouncing their property rights.

Vratil said Monday the district sent out 54 letters and received 37 back with quit claims. The remaining 17 property owners either refused delivery of the letter or refused to sign the quit claims, he said.

Superintendent Marilyn Layman said she and her staff attempted to reach the remaining 17 property owners by phone in the days leading up to the board meeting. Deputy Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said the district has never been able to contact four of the neighboring property owners. The latest round of phone calls didn't produce any additional quit claims, but did led one man to complain the district was "harassing" him.

The district made the effort to contact the neighbors after some complained of being caught off guard by the first quiet title action.

"You can't win," Vratil said.

After authorizing the quiet title action, the board agreed to send out news releases and post Internet articles explaining its reasons for pursuing the lawsuit.

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