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District 155 plans to appeal bleacher ruling

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 1:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 1:18 p.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot -
Judge Michael Chmiel ruled Wednesday, Dec. 18 that city zoning ordinances and processes apply to school districts. A lawsuit over the bleachers began when three Crystal Lake residents, all living along Amberwood Drive where the football field is located, complained the $1.18 million bleacher project failed to follow the city zoning process.

WOODSTOCK – Attorneys for Community High School District 155 say they will appeal a judge’s decision that would require the district to go through the city of Crystal Lake zoning process for a $1.18 million bleacher expansion already constructed.

Through the appeal, which is expected to be filed within seven days, the district hopes to postpone going through the city zoning ordinance procedure for the already-constructed bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School and freeze potential fines that could reach $1,000 a day for ordinance violations until an appellate court has ruled on the case.

Crystal Lake attorneys had no objection to the district seeking an appeal, but said the district should still go through the zoning process for the bleachers while the appeal is pending.

After a hearing in front of Judge Michael Chmiel on Wednesday morning, the attorneys from both parties had a closed-door conference to come to an agreement on the appeal process.

Justin Hanson, attorney for Crystal Lake, said the city agreed to not pursue any fines if the district filed the appeal within seven days and hit the deadlines necessary for a hearing in front of Chmiel on Feb. 13. Chmiel will determine whether a stay on the enforcement of zoning procedures will be granted while the case is pending in the appellate court.

The district’s delay in filing an appeal was an issue for Chmiel during the morning hearing.

Chmiel said while he understood the attorneys had difficulties such as getting the school board’s approval for an appeal, the delay went against the expedited process the parties agreed to before the case began. Chmiel first heard the case in September and had rendered a decision in December – a process he said would usually take much longer.

“I understand you have hurdles and a board,” Chmiel said. “But it has been 35 days since I rendered that decision.”

VIctor Filippini Jr., a city attorney, said the district’s delay was part of the reason for informing school officials about the potential fines. He said the city does not want to fine the district, but wanted administrators to know getting involved in the zoning process as quickly as possible was important.

Chmiel ruled in December the city had zoning authority over the school district. The district built a $1.18 million bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake High School in the summer that did not go through the process and was challenged by neighboring residents in court.

The next court date will be in room 202 of the McHenry County Courthouse on Feb. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

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