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Our View: Stop wasting money in bleachers dispute

Published: Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Now that McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel has ruled in the dispute surrounding the bleachers expansion at Crystal Lake South High School, we hope School District 155 will do the right thing and not appeal the decision.

At issue is whether the school district was bound by Crystal Lake zoning laws when it completed a $1.18 million expansion of the bleachers last summer. The school district and regional superintendent argue that because the project was approved by the regional superintendent, there was no need for city approval. The city disagrees.

Chmiel said he found no previous cases showing school districts had to comply with or were free to ignore city zoning ordinances. He said in his analysis of the law, city ordinances in zoning matters could and should apply to school districts.

What happens next is uncertain. The next move is District 155’s to make and could include retroactively going through the city’s zoning process and obtaining the permits needed for the expansion.

Robert Swain, who represents the district, said officials needed to read the full written opinion before deciding on the next move.

One option available to the district is to appeal the ruling in appellate court. This should not be a consideration. More taxpayer money should not be spent – by either side – on this lawsuit.

Taxpayers are paying a lot of money in property taxes. State funding of education is up in the air. District 155 and its teachers union are in contract negotiations. The dollars the district has need to be spent wisely and not on appealing a decision in a lawsuit.

If the district is concerned about precedent, we fail to see the harm in requiring school districts to go through city zoning channels to get projects that could affect residents approved.

Both sides are to appear before Chmiel on Jan. 22 to hear what the district decides to do next. Here’s hoping District 155 decides to stop wasting taxpayer dollars.

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