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Our view: Bleachers decision gives D-155 an opportunity

Published: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel gave Crystal Lake-based School District 155 a break last week.

But Chmiel also gave the school district an opportunity.

District 155 officials should use the free time that Chmiel granted them to work with the city of Crystal Lake on a solution to the dispute over new bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School.

The school district has been at odds with the city of Crystal Lake since last summer, when the high school tore down its old bleachers and press box, and moved the home bleachers from the east side of the football stadium to the west side.

The west side of the stadium backs into the Amberwood Drive neighborhood, where the new bleachers tower over several homes. Homeowners there filed suit against the district, claiming it failed to get proper variances for the new bleachers from the city.

Crystal Lake officials say the bleachers violate three zoning codes: They sit only 41 feet from homeowner’s property when it should be 50 feet or more; they are greater than 600 square feet, which requires a zoning variance; and the press box and the top of the bleachers are too tall, which requires a height variance.

The school district has claimed that it does not need city approval. It claims it only needed approval from the Regional Office of Education, which it received. But in a December ruling, Chmiel sided with residents and the city and ordered the district to go through the city’s zoning process.

Instead of acquiescing, District 155 decided to waste more taxpayer money and appealed.

Chmiel ruled last week that the district would not have to pay the city $1,000 in daily fines for being in violation of Crystal Lake zoning codes as long as the appeal process is completed by June 15.

We think the district has little chance of winning on appeal. But as the appeals process continues, school officials should go through Crystal Lake’s zoning process.

For one thing, perhaps a compromise can be reached. Just as importantly, it would a good faith gesture that shows the district can work with its neighbors and the city on an issue that affects all parties.

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