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The unpublished opinion describes his claims about having potential clients who were interested in purchasing the property as "vague and speculative".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.