In May of 2013, Crystal Lake District 155 announced plans to carry out $3.2 million worth of capital projects for that summer, including replacing the bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School. The bleachers were not compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and were outdated. The new bleachers would increase seating capacity to 3,800 people.
More than a year later, the bleacher expansion was still being discussed in the courts.
In August, Mayor Aaron Shepley told the Northwest Herald the district’s unwillingness to meet city zoning requirements leaves the city with two options: ignore neighbors who have complained about the proximity of the renovation to their property and turn a blind eye to city zoning ordinances or file a lawsuit against the district. Shepley said the stadium is in violation of three zoning requirements. The bleachers were too close to property lines, and neighbors were upset.
What resulted was a lawsuit from residents over the bleacher expansion. The nine-page complaint asked for an injunction, claiming that the district failed to go through the process to obtain city permits for variations that would greatly change the area by increasing seating capacity to about 3,800, creating potential flood hazards and requiring potentially more than 1,200 parking spaces.
In January, attorneys for Community High School District 155 said they would appeal a judge’s decision that would require the district to go through the city of Crystal Lake zoning process for the $1.18 million bleacher expansion already constructed.
One month later, D-155 avoided potential $1,000 daily fines from the city as long as a ruling on the appeal was delivered by June 15. The battle continued in an appellate court on July 10, where a three-judge panel listened to arguments from both sides.
After District 155 appealed the decision, both sides agreed to suspend any enforcement of daily fines and are not requiring the district to enter the zoning process until a ruling was made by the appellate court. In a ruling Sept. 5, McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel said the district must comply with the city’s zoning process, but he stopped short of demanding the bleachers be torn down, although he reserved the right to seek additional relief in the future.
Oct. Oct. 16, Chimel ordered that the bleachers be torn down, though while Chmiel said he would support the bleacher coming down "as soon as possible," attorney Tom Burney – who represents the residents – suggested a Dec. 1 deadline to not interfere with the rest of the football season.
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