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Appeal date set in District 155 bleacher case

District won’t face fines until court hears arguments July 10

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 3:32 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, June 12, 2014 11:03 p.m. CST
(Sarah Nader)
Sarah Nader- A view from Amberwood Drive of the new bleachers and press box at Crystal Lake Central High School Thursday, June 12, 2014.

WOODSTOCK – Community High School District 155 will not face potential fines from Crystal Lake after the two sides came to a mutual agreement to delay any city enforcement until after an appellate court hears arguments next month.

McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel was set to rule Thursday on whether to extend a stay of city enforcement on District 155 over a legally challenged $1.18 million bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake South High School, but attorneys from both parties said they agreed to wait until after the appellate court hears the case on July 10.

Chmiel, who said he had three pages of comments prepared, was surprised by the agreement and thankful he did not have to give his opinion as it was no longer necessary.

Chmiel ruled in December that the school district should have gone through the city zoning process before constructing the bleacher expansion in August, but prevented the city from enforcing fines until June 15 so the district’s appeal could be heard.

Had the stay on enforcement expired at the originally scheduled June 15, the city would have the authority to fine the district up to $1,000 per day, but Justin Hansen, an attorney for Crystal Lake, said the city would be more focused on getting the district started in the zoning process than doling out fines.

“The initial June 15 date was set by Judge Chmiel because he didn’t want any enforcement action to interfere with the school year,” Hansen said. “We figured it made the most sense, rather than to even consider starting any sort of enforcement proceedings, to wait for the [appellate court] to decide.”

Hansen added he believed Chmiel would have not extended the grace period from enforcement is the sides had not come to an agreement.

The lawsuit was filed in August after the three Crystal Lake residents, all living along Amberwood Drive where the football field is located, complained the bleacher project failed to follow the city zoning process and the district made the structure too large and too close to their property lines.

Tom Burney, who represents the residents, simultaneously continued his case against the district Thursday, asking the judge to make the district release minutes, notes and recordings from a closed session meeting on Aug. 5, 2013.

Burney said a string of emails the weekend before the meeting between Superintendent Johnnie Thomas and construction firm officials show discussions about the project and concerns over the height of the structure, with Thomas asking how much it would cost to lower the height.

Burney said he believed the matter could have been discussed in closed session, which could be a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Chmiel did not make an immediate decision on the request and wanted more information from both parties’ lawyers.

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