D-155, City Council separately meet for first time since suit

CRYSTAL LAKE – Ann Somers has the same sense of optimism that a new school year brings when it comes to finding a solution with the city of Crystal Lake in the ongoing lawsuit over bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake South High School.

Tuesday marked the first meetings of both the Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board and Crystal Lake City Council since the two sides found themselves on the opposite side of a lawsuit brought forth by three Crystal Lake residents.

Neither body had an agenda item about the lawsuit at their respective meetings.

Somers, a board member for District 155, said despite the city’s and district’s disagreement on where zoning authority lies when it comes to the Crystal Lake South stadium renovations, an agreeable solution is still possible.

“It’s important to us we have a good relationship with all our neighbors,” Somers said. “We want everyone to be as satisfied as can be.”

District 155 officials upset Amberwood Drive residents and city officials after moving and expanding home bleachers at the high school near residential property lines without city permits. The city contends that zoning variations are needed because the project is more than 600 square feet, the structure is too close to property lines, and it is too tall after expanding from 42 feet to 47 feet, 10 inches.

District officials have argued that permits from the regional superintendent are all that is necessary for the work.

Board member Jim Nelson said the most important part of the situation is that the district was allowed to finish the renovation and implement safety upgrades to bleachers that were more than 50 years old.

“I’m glad we’re able to move forward,” Nelson said. “The goal is to make the bleachers as safe as possible.”

City officials had threatend to sue District 155 for ignoring the zoning process, but backed off after a group of three Crystal Lake residents – including McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi – decided to sue the district for the same reason.

Court proved unavoidable for the city after District 155 attorneys brought both the city and regional superintendent into the lawsuit to determine which governmental body has zoning authority over school projects.

Some City Council members remained quiet on the situation as Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller and Councilman Ralph Dawson declined comment before their meeting. District 155 and the Crystal Lake City Council met at the same time Tuesday evening.

While they remained silent, Mayor Aaron Shepley has recently stated partial deconstruction of the bleachers may be the only solution.

Ted Wagner, president of the District 155 board, said he would rather focus on the first day of school Monday and touted the district’s new Advanced Placement course and the growing success the program realizes year after year.

“We’re in the business of kids,” he said.

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