District 155 to Appeal Court Ruling in Crystal Lake South Bleachers Case

Attorneys for Community High School District 155 said they will appeal the court decision saying the districg should follow the city's zoning laws.

The back view of the new bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School from Amberwood Drive.
The back view of the new bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School from Amberwood Drive.
It appears another chapter in the saga of the new $1.18 million bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School is about to be written.

Attorneys for Community High School District 155, the city of Crystal Lake, the McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools and the Amberwood Drive homeowners met in court Wednesday morning for a status hearing.

Robert Swain, the attorney representing District 155, said he plans to file an appeal to Judge Michael J. Chmiel's Dec. 18 ruling, which sided with the homeowners and city. In his decision, Chmiel said the school district should abide by the city's zoning and storm water ordinances.

Chmiel said Wednesday the lack of similar cases on record in the state indicate that most school districts typically adhere to local municipalities' zoning laws.

"I think the reason there are no other case laws is because school districts usually do go to the municipality when there's a zoning issue," Chmiel said. "This may be the one time a school district didn't.... I think this is a straight forward issue."

In order for Swain to file the appeal, Chmiel needed to approve the city's motion asking the Dec. 18 decision be the judge's "final order." Chmiel indicated he would approve that motion today.

While few people were surprised District 155 officials decided to move forward with the appeal, what happens while that process plays out proved to be a point of contention in court today.

The city of Crystal Lake wants the school district to begin the zoning application, review and approval process. Swain said he received a letter last week from city attorneys asking the school district to begin the process or be subject to daily fines, which - per city code- amount to $1,000 per day.

"As a practical matter, we (District 155) can't go on with an appeal with a $1,000 per day meter going," Swain told the judge.

Victor Filippini, Jr., attorney for the city, said the letter was sent to get District 155 to begin the zoning process. Fines did not have to be imposed, he said.

"Our effort throughout this process has been to encourage the district to go through the city's zoning process... for the benefit of the neighbors," Filippini said. "That's been our goal all along."

Swain said the District 155 does not want to proceed with the city's zoning process until after proceeding with the appeal.

"It doesn't make sense to follow (the city's zoning process) if it's eventually decided (by the appellate court) that it's not the process," Swain said.

Dean Krone, also an attorney for District 155, added: "The appeal could completely change the outcome. It could even change the rules for the zoning process."

History of the Crystal Lake South Bleachers Dispute:

Controversy over the bleachers began this past summer when homeowners living on Amberwood Drive said they were never given advance notification about the project, or an opportunity to share their concerns or input.

Their backyards abut the new structure, which is now the site of the Gators' larger "Home" stands. Previously, the smaller, "Visitor" stands were next to residential properties.

The homeowners object to the size of the new stands, which are 51 feet tall (not counting the press box) and triple the width of the previous bleachers. The new stadium also was built 41 feet from the homeowners' property line, which does not meet city code.

The bleachers seat up to 3,900 spectators between the new home and visitor stands. Attorneys for the homeowners said the school is 680 parking spaces short of accommodating that many spectators.

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