Compromise may be in the works for GVSD eminent domain lawsuit: Phoenixville PA News, 9/7/06

By Anne Pickering

A compromise may be in the works to allow a neighbor of the Great Valley High School and middle school to keep their home which has been the object of an eminent domain lawsuit by the school district
School district attorney Guy Donatelli gave an update at Tuesday's school board meeting on the status of the case which has pitted the school district against Patrick and Karen Cassidy whose 1-1/2-acre home the district wants to acquire for a playing field.

More than 75 people attended last month's school board meeting and many spoke out against the Great Valley School District using the power of eminent domain to force the Cassidys to give up their home.

Donatelli told board members that he had talked to Joe London, the Cassidys' attorney and he thought there was a basis for a compromise.

Reached by telephone on Wednesday, Donatelli said, "The basis of the compromise would involve the school district getting the property it needs and the Cassidys being able to stay in their home."

He hastened to add that "there is no agreement." The two parties are "just feeling each other out," at this stage.

The next step is to arrange a meeting between all the parties which Donatelli was hopeful would be arranged soon.

Several calls to London were not returned as well as calls to the Cassidys.

Audrey Van Loan, a friend of the Cassidys, told the school board at last month's meeting that the family did not want to leave their home. The school district acquired 4.3 acres of the original 6-acre Cassidy tract on Phoenixville Pike from Eleanor Cassidy in 2002. According to the terms of the agreement, Eleanor Cassidy was allowed to live in her home until her death in 2004. While the district always had their eye on the last 1-1/2 acres owned by her son Patrick Cassidy, they did not start pursuing it until the end of 2005. When the Cassidys said they didn't want to sell, the school district started eminent domain proceedings. Before a judge could hear the case, Patrick Cassidy fell and fractured two vertebrae in his spine and was bedridden for several months.

Donatelli made arrangements for depositions to be taken in the case in mid-August but Karen Cassidy became ill and had to be hospitalized. The school district made an offer of $350,000 for the land which was determined to be fair market value. The Cassidys came back with a much larger offer but maintained that they didn't want to leave their home.

If the school district acquires the 1-1/2-acre tract there would be enough space for two regulation playing fields. It would also be used for physical education classes. The district currently buses 170 to 200 students off site for athletic activities.

If the Cassidy parcel is obtained it would cut down on the amount of busing but not eliminate it altogether.

Before the middle school was built in the late 1990s, the 70-acre site held the high school and playing fields. Once the middle school was built, there was no longer enough playing fields on site. The whole campus is now 80 acres of which 25 acres is parking and the schools leaving 55 acres for playing fields and other open areas.

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