Consortium files appeal in ongoing land dispute with Claremont School of Theology

The Claremont Colleges Services is appealing a court decision regarding a land dispute with the Claremont School of Theology. (Chris Nardi • The Student Life)

As the Claremont School of Theology works to sell off more than 10 acres of its campus as part of a planned move to Salem, Oregon, The Claremont Colleges Services is continuing to fight CST in court.

TCCS, the official name for the consortium, is appealing a Los Angeles Superior Court decision that would amend a decades-old land agreement between the two institutions, and argued that the consortium should be allowed to purchase CST’s land for $14 million, rather than the $25 million the theology school is asking for.

In January, Judge Dan Thomas Oki ruled that CST could sell to another educational institution, but TCCS had the right to match other offers. That ruling alters the original contract, which said TCCS would have the right to purchase CST’s land for a price determined by a formula in the contract.

In 2016, during a period of financial hardship, CST moved to sell 10.5 acres of its 16.4-acre campus, and valued the land at $25 million. Based on the formula laid out in the agreement, TCCS determined the land was worth $4 million, but offered CST $14 million.

When negotiations over the price broke down in August, CST sued, claiming that TCCS’ offer was well below market value and that the clause in the agreement was no longer valid under California law, according to a CST document. The case went to trial in September 2018.

CST President Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan said the plan to move to Oregon and merge with Willamette University will continue despite the consortium’s appeal, which could extend the case for an additional year or two, according to TCCS.

“We have been diligent and have built in safeguards to ensure CST will survive the appeal, continue exploring a move to Salem and ultimately receive fair market value for the property,” Kuan wrote in an statement to TSL.

TCCS CEO Stig Lanesskog defended the original agreement.

“While we are pleased that [Oki’s] ruling will ensure that the property continues to be used by [an] … institution of higher education, we believe the original agreement is binding and would like CST to abide by its commitments,” Lanesskog said in a press release.

CST’s lawyers said they were “very pleased” with Oki’s ruling, but Kuan was frustrated by TCCS’ appeal.

“We are certainly disappointed by the apparent appeal and their spin on the entire unfortunate process,” Kuan wrote, noting that he has not yet seen the appeal. “Now, after prevailing in obtaining a fair market value, [TCCS] is taking further action to try to undo the trial and the court’s decision to ultimately ruin CST.”

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