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Crystal Lake to pursue fines over Crystal Lake South bleacher zoning violations

Fines designed to 'make people of Crystal Lake whole,' mayor says

Daryl Quitalig - For Shaw Media
The sun sets behind the Crystal Lake South High School west bleachers before the game on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Officials and attorneys representing Community High School District 155, the city of Crystal Lake and the property owners who originally filed the lawsuit against the Crystal Lake-based district for violating the city’s zoning ordinances were scheduled to meet Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 at Crystal Lake City Hall, just hours after meeting again in court.
Daryl Quitalig - For Shaw Media The sun sets behind the Crystal Lake South High School west bleachers before the game on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Officials and attorneys representing Community High School District 155, the city of Crystal Lake and the property owners who originally filed the lawsuit against the Crystal Lake-based district for violating the city’s zoning ordinances were scheduled to meet Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 at Crystal Lake City Hall, just hours after meeting again in court.

CRYSTAL LAKE – The multi-year lawsuit over the Crystal Lake South High School bleachers has cost the city of Crystal Lake about $250,000.

Mayor Aaron Shepley announced at the annual State of the Community address Friday afternoon at the Crystal Lake Country Club that the city plans to recoup its expenses in an effort to evenly spread the cost of the lawsuit across all the residents within territorially larger Community High School District 155, not just Crystal Lake.

The city will file an ordinance violation charge against the school district in McHenry County court within the next few weeks, Shepley said after his speech. He did not know how long the process would take.

The complaint will include the maximum amount in fines the city could levy, which at $5.5 million is more than the city plans on collecting, he said.

The city has been tallying fines – $1,000 per violation for five zoning violations – every day since October 2014, after an appellate court judge ruled the district was in violation of the city’s zoning code.

"This has never been about punishing anyone, and that [$5.5 million] would clearly be a punishment," Shepley said, adding that his goal is to make Crystal Lake residents whole again.

District 155 spokeswoman Shannon Mortimer did not return a call for comment Friday afternoon.

Another party in the bleacher lawsuit is also seeking reimbursement for its costs to the tune of more than $300,000.

The district has agreed that the Gurbas and Bianchis – the owners of two homes that back up to the bleachers – are entitled to reimbursement under the law but have objected to the hourly rates being proposed by the plaintiffs' attorney as well as some of the bills included, according to court records.

The district's insurance will cover any of the costs mandated by the judge, Superintendent Johnnie Thomas said earlier this week.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Monday morning.

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