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Marion Carll Heirs File Lawsuit Against Commack School District

Heirs seek repossession of the property, claiming the school district has failed use it for educational purposes.

The heirs to the Marion Carll Farm are seeking to regain possession of the historic property donated to the Commack School District more than 40 years ago, and school officials may willingly hand over the deed.

Commack School District was served with a 13-page lawsuit, filed March 16 in Suffolk County Supreme Court, from the heirs of the Marion Carll Farm who seek the return of the historic property.

The Marion Carll heirs claim the district has failed to maintain the property as a museum and use it for educational purposes, as outlined under stipulations of the donation.

Under the provisions of Carll Will, Commack school district was "to maintain the buildings there on as historical museums" and "utilize the land as a type of farm school, school or camp for benefit of the children... ."

However, the Marion Carll Farm has been shuttered, largely off limits to the public since it was donated to the school district in 1969 with one notable exception. , building a one-room schoolhouse for educational programs and renovated a few of the barns.

Since then, Commack School District has struggled to maintain the property, as several of the buildings are falling into state of disrepair. Laura Neumann, assistant superintendent for business, announced the property has cost the district $125,935.87 for the current 2011-12 school year, mostly in legal fees.

Superintendent Donald James said he district has been served with the lawsuit, but has yet to respond.

"We are studying it. We are preparing a response after consulting with the board," James said at the April 19 board meeting.

Commack Board of Education has tried to find potential future use and development of the Marion Carll Farm.

Newsday reports a 2010 proposal to sell the farm to a Plainview developer that proposed to restore the historical buildings and build homes was rejected by district voters. Also, the district has also been in the midst of negotiations to sell the property to a nonprofit school for children with disability and an equine therapy program. However, neither plan has come to fruition.

Commack School District's attorney made clear at the April 19 board meeting, "the Board of Education has instructed me not to spend significant legal fees defending this action. I will of course abide by that request."

The action, or lack there of, could result in the property being given back over to Carll's heirs. This action, the attorney said, would not need any vote of approval.

Arthur Goldstein, a Huntington-based attorney representing the heirs, spoke to Newsday about the impending lawsuit. He said while the heirs have not decided what they would do with the property, if received, they plan to meet with community representatives to gather their input.

Sue Hermer April 25, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Although I may regret making this comment without having first read the complaint filed by the plaintiffs, I think Commack should just settle and give back the farm. That will save the tax payers from paying exorbitant legal fees in addition to the fees that we have been paying all along. Although it was a nice gesture of the Carlls to donate the property, the Commack school district was obviously incapable of managing a farm due to neglect and/or not wanting to increase taxes to maintain the property. I voted to sell the farm even though I knew it was underpriced because I saw this coming. We could have used the $750,000.00 and the property taxes from the new homes that the Holiday Organization would have built. In addition, the historic buildings would have been restored and preserved at Holiday's cost with opportunities for some educational programs for the district. Unfortunately, the communitty didn't show much interest and the number of people who showed up to vote was pathetic.
J wabnik April 25, 2012 at 01:37 PM
I to agree, the district should sell the farm or settle with the family. Perhaps the family will make a one time doantion to the district. I hope we do not spend thousands of dollars fighting the suit. Sadly, I am sure Marion Carll never envisioned that these difficult economic times would impact her dream for the children of Commack, that they would know that Commack was once made up of thriving farms and not just big box stores and fast food restaurants
Annie D. April 25, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Sad day for Commack. They should have used the property for educational purposes as originally agreed. Commack already had lost money for not keeping Green Fields and Green Meadows properties - those could have been rented out all these years. Shame on whomever let Marion Carll Farms get to this level! Oh, sure ...just hand the property back - that's fiscally responsible!
J wabnik April 25, 2012 at 06:33 PM
maintaining properites can be very expensive and is not always in the best interest of the organization. i wasn't involved when the properites were sold so I really can't comment on whether it was a good idea or not. However, if the district losses the lawsuit and must return the properity, lets see if the heirs will be able maintain the properity as it was orginally intented or sell to the highest bidder
Sue Hermer April 25, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I agree. It was a shame to allow the farm to deteriorate to this point. But, last I read, the cost to the district to maintain the farm was around $200,000.00 per year. Most of the costs are legal expenses. Yeah, giving the property back would be fiscally responsible since there aren't any serious buyers.
Re April 25, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Sue be advised the 200,000 figure to maintain the farm was later recanted and restated in 2010 by the school's lawyer to about $30,000 and even now that amount has never been justified by the business office..In yesterdays Newsday the upkeep figure was again lowered to thousands. The family should get the property back as they have a lot of concern about the property under the reversion clause and also be aware that their lawyer wants to hold a community meeting. Watch for the details
Sue Hermer April 25, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Thanks Re. I'll keep my eyes open.
Annie D. April 25, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Commack School District has just applied the "scare" tactic. All this time they wanted to sell it off! Don't you see what they are creating now? A panic...a lawsuit. The district has just created a diversion, so they can get Marion Carll off their hands. They should fix it up and use it educationally.
Greg Martinez April 26, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Commack School District blew it. Give it back to the family.
Re April 26, 2012 at 08:16 PM
The family filed the suit .
Annie D. April 27, 2012 at 04:49 AM
To Re...how convenient, To Greg...you are so right!
Steven Pertussati April 27, 2012 at 10:19 PM
The Commack School District has neglected this property for decades. This is the community's fault as a whole in not recognizing the value this particular property serves as a true measure of what our community is supposed to stand for.
JP April 30, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Do you know who made out on this property? The children? No The community? No The school attorney? "WE HAVE A WINNER HERE!" Someone told me that they heard at the last board meeting that we spent over $45k this year just on legal expenses for the property. Perhaps someone should ask the board if they realize how the attorney has no incentive for a quick resolution. Once this is resolved, I am sure they wil find someother way to bilk the school district. I was told that the district spent about $500k on legal expenses this year and $150k for someone to be the "public relations" for the district. Do we really need to spend $150k for public relations? Does anyone see a problem with this? When is the last time we looked into getting a new school attorney?
Will April 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM
The $150,000 they "spent to date " could have been a nice down payment on the repairs the property needed
Charlie May 07, 2012 at 02:37 PM
If the property goes back to the heirs, it will - - guess what? - - pay property taxes. Same could have been said for the rejected Holiday proposal. The only problem with that proposal was that the proposed selling price ($750 K) was awfully low. Where else on Long Island could somebody buy that much acreage for that low a price? While Alberta Jenkins was alive (she had a life-right under Marion's will to occupy the house), she maintained it, even though she didn't own it. Since Alberta's death, the house has been destroyed due to stupid neglect. $40 K for a re-roof would have saved it - - too late for that now. Under full dislosure, I am a Carll family member, (actually the only person of my generation with the family name). I am however NOT one of the heirs. By happenstance, all heirs are decendents of Hiram Ketcham. Alberta - - who is the only person who ever showed any real interest in preserving the property and buildings - - was a daughter of Hiram. I have ZERO financial interest in the property. By the way, when the school district was willed the property, one of the items that went with the farm was a 1939 Ford-Ferguson 9N tractor. Over the years, the tractor has "disappeared". Lest I say too much negative about the school district, it has the pimary responsibility of educating young people. It's primary task is NOT to run a museum. It failed miserably at a task that isn't its primary responsibility,
susan r September 07, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Why does a public school need to pay $150,000 for someone to do public relations?????????????????

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