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E-M:/ Jean Klock Park Lawsuit Appealed
- Subject: E-M:/ Jean Klock Park Lawsuit Appealed
- From: LuAnne Kozma <email@example.com>
- Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2008 14:29:51 -0700 (PDT)
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Enviro-Mich message from LuAnne Kozma <email@example.com>
News Flash--below is a press release from Friends of Jean Klock Park.
I was in the courtroom last Friday when Judge Scofield issued his ruling--after 5 p.m. on a Friday as all the federal decisions have been made... And yes, after just a 15-minute break, came back and read from a prepared statement for about 40 minutes.
All the residents in the room were pro-park. The only people there for the City or the developers, were people paid by the developers essentially.
Former Detroit mayor, Dennis Archer, head of Dickinson Wright, was the lead attorney for the private developers, Harbor Shores Incorporated..... the same law firm that also represented the City and Cornerstone Alliance, and whose law firm had resigned from the City of Benton Harbor but never actually stepped aside....When you have a law firm represent both the city and the developer.... you get deals like 105-year leases of public parkland.
Scott Howard, counsel for the pro-park plaintiffs, did a great job in court.
And yes, there is a federal case pending as well.
Once again, donations to these lawsuits, that affects all parks--perhaps a park near you--are much appreciated.
Defense of Place
For Immediate Release: August 29, 2008
Friends of Jean Klock Park
Fight to Save Park Continues
Plaintiffs File an Appeal of Circuit Court Decision to Dismiss their Case
(Benton Harbor, Michigan) The Berrien County Court has dismissed the lawsuit brought by two members of the Friends of Jean Klock Park regarding the City of Benton Harbor’s right to lease Jean Klock Park to developers. The Plaintiffs, Carol Drake and Clellen Bury, have filed an appeal through their attorney Scott Howard of Olson Bzdok & Howard of Traverse City.
Plaintiffs sought to have the Court uphold the 1917 deed dedicating Jean Klock Park to the people of Benton Harbor and the 2004 Consent Judgment that was intended to restrict any future private development in the park.
“We are disappointed, naturally, “ said Carol Drake, “but we believe in the merits of our case and continue to believe that the donors’ intent was to have the park available to the majority of the general public, not just wealthy golfers.”
At issue is whether the Klock family intended to give the City the right to lease the park out to a private entity to build a golf course in the park for up to 105 years. The Hon. Scott Schofield ruled that even though the Klock's gift is limited to use as a "park," it could still be used for development of the privately owned and operated golf course. The Court's ruling looked to “the four corners” of the deed and consent judgment, stating that items such as newspaper articles or contemporaneous reports of the Klocks’ wishes were outside the facts of the case.
The Plaintiffs differ.
“It’s a part of the fabric of local history: the Klocks’ express wish was that the park be maintained in its natural state to the extent possible,” said Clellen Bury, the other Plaintiff. “It is very frustrating to not have that information considered.”
Judge Schofield also suggested that it was “the will of the people” that a Jack Nicklaus golf course be constructed in Jean Klock Park. Mary Carter, a Benton Harbor resident and tireless advocate for her community who attended the hearing held in Judge Schofield’s Niles courtroom does not agree. “Our tax dollars should be used to pay an attorney who represents the will of citizens, not the will of city government who has ignored what the citizens really want. The Harbor Shores development may be good for our city but it is not the will of myself and others that Jean Klock Park be used for a golf course.”
The Judge concluded that the people had spoken through their elected representatives on the City Commission, but that interpretation misses the point, according to Benton Harbor resident Charles Henry, who was present at Friday's hearing.
“The City Commission usurped the City Charter multiple times when it passed Harbor Shores based legislation. This fact alone makes the entire so called 'democratic' process argument illegitimate," Mr. Henry said.
A second lawsuit filed August 12 in U. S. District Court in Washington D. C. seeks to reverse the National Park Service decision to approve the conversion of Jean Klock Park to private use. That case will be heard by the Hon Emmet Sullivan.
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