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February 15, 2013

Decision coming soon on Jacob’s Well

Legal battle over ‘house of hope’ continues for nonprofit, Utica residents



When the property was deeded from Greater Clark to Utica Township in 2002, a restrictive covenant was in place on the property, according to Dustin White, attorney for the preservation group and several neighbors.

He said during arguments in court Monday that the restrictive covenant in the deed limits what the use of the building can be, restricts the grantee occupancy and requires the property in question maintain or enhance the use of the land that is adjacent.

And the restrictive covenant limits the building’s use to parks and recreation purposes.

“If you’re housing people there, it’s against the restrictive covenant,” White said.

White said a plan has not been presented to use the property for parks and recreational purposes.

“There’s no mention of any agreement between Jacob’s Well and [Utica’s] trustee for park purposes,” he said. “It is clear that it is to be offered to the public. It is of the public interest and public right to have the property used as a parks and rec[reation] facility.”

But Lewis argued that the plans for the building do include using the gymnasium, cafeteria and outdoor space for parks and recreation purposes.

“Jacob’s Well has committed it will be used for parks and recreation purposes,” he said. “The township trustee required that at the time the lease was signed.”

Lewis admitted that there is no formal plan in place, but the space would be opened to activities like volleyball and basketball.

“It won’t be limited to residents of the building,” he added.

At the end of arguments, special Judge Glenn Hancock said he will take the issues under advisement, but that he expects a ruling will be made this week on whether or not the summary judgment will be granted or if the case will go to trial. Even if the case does move toward a trial, Hancock said he expects the trial date to be pushed forward.

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