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CL South Neighbors File Lawsuit Against District 155 Over Bleachers; Football Season in Flux

Crystal Lake South Gators Football teams likely will need to play games on alternate fields this season as the battle over the new $1.18 million bleacher stadium continues.

District 155 Superintendent Johnnie Thomas notifies attendees of Monday's meeting that no further bleacher discussions could be held due to the lawsuit filed the same day.
District 155 Superintendent Johnnie Thomas notifies attendees of Monday's meeting that no further bleacher discussions could be held due to the lawsuit filed the same day.




A special meeting scheduled for neighbors of Crystal Lake South High School and Community High School District 155 officials on Monday night was intended to find a solution to the new football stadium dispute.

However, an attempt at a resolution could not even get started as District 155 Superintendent Johnnie Thomas announced to the group of about 25 attendees that Amberwood Drive homeowners Jeff Gurba, and Louis and Jean Bianchi had filed a lawsuit on Monday against District 155 and the District 155 Board of Education.

Per the advice of legal counsel, Thomas said no discussions could be held.

Michael R. Burney, attorney for the homeowners, said an emergency hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Wednesday in McHenry County Court, where he will enter a motion seeking a temporary restraining order for the ongoing construction of the new 51-foot-tall, $1.18 million bleachers at South High School, which is located at 1200 S. McHenry Ave., Crystal Lake.

"We're looking for an injunction whereby the district can't continue to maintain a structure that isn't in compliance with city ordinance," Burney said.

In the meantime, District 155 spokesman Jeff Puma said alternatives likely will be made for the Gators' upcoming football season. School officials must find other fields for the Gators to play their games.

School officials were looking forward to the new season, with the new bleachers in place and the recent purchase of a giant, inflatable football helmet for the players to enter the field through at the start of the game.

The city of Crystal Lake has already issued two stop-work orders to the District 155, asking it follow the standard application and review process for zoning and storm water permits.

The Amberwood Drive residents said construction workers arrived, as usual, at 7 a.m. Monday morning, but, to their surprise, work crews stopped and departed by 10:30 a.m.

Both the city officials and Burney argue District 155 fumbled when it proceeded with construction of the bleachers, which will hold between 3,800 to 3,900 spectators between both the Home and Visitor seating areas when completed.

"We're asking that any structure the district builds that it is built in compliance with the city's ordinances," Burney said. "That goes for UDO (Unified Development Ordinance), parking and storm sewer."

Burney said District 155 is "striking a new territory" by insisting the city has no right to regulate zoning of the stadium. Burney cited Section 11-13-15 of the municipal code that states any property owner within 1,200 feet has standing to enforce city zoning.

"We want the school to be treated like any other property owner," Burney said. "By refusing to participate in the zoning process, the district has taken away these residents' rights to be part of the zoning process."

Louis Bianchi, states attorney for McHenry County, said he and his wife purchased the four bedroom raised ranch home in the 1100 block of Amberwood Drive five years ago as an investment. The couple rents the house.

"My wife and I love Crystal Lake that's why we invested in Crystal Lake and not Wall Street," Bianchi said. "It's a safety issue. We all are interested in keeping Crystal Lake a safe community....in an ideal world, they would have just replaced the bleachers where they were."

The homeowners said they're not against football, and are accustomed to the noise living next to the school. But, the new bleachers are "monstrous," they said, and will severely impact the value of their homes. They're also concerned about the structure's height and size.

Burney said the district failed to notify the homeowners by posting signs on the property about the project and mailing notices to neighboring property owners living 250 to 300 feet away from the lot line, as law requires, he said.

"The Berlin Wall was 12 feet tall," Burney said. "The security fence in Israel is 28 feet tall. These bleachers are 51 feet tall. You're talking about a four-story structure going up here."

RELATED STORIES:

District 155 Installs Massive New Bleachers at CL South High School Without City Approval

'Battle of the Bleachers' Continues Between District 155 and City of Crystal Lake 

CL Mayor Asks District 155 to Stop Work on Bleachers and Obtain Zoning Approval

Stop Work Order from City to District 155 for CL South Bleachers
Mike jones August 13, 2013 at 07:47 PM
This wouldn't even be going to court if it wasn't for soon to be ex states attorney bianchi using his power to ruin high school football at CLS because his rental property is behind the bleachers. Let them finish the bleachers, play the games, and meet and come up with a solution without taking away something the kids enjoy. The bleachers are safer than the old one. They do not need to be taken down. They are only 5' 10" taller than the old ones.
Zed August 13, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Mike Jones, I could suggest that others posting here learn not be rude in their posts. Instead I'll simply point out to you that if bleachers can be moved, so can concession stands and tennis courts. Obviously, with the cost put out for these new bleachers, the school district has plenty of money to relocate these other things as well. (And in case certain others here didn't catch the sarcasm of that last sentence... I was being sarcastic.)
CL Proud August 13, 2013 at 08:15 PM
I cannot believe what some people write here. First of all "Jim Stuglish" you must be so proud of yourself, picking on a senior girl. You are nothing more than a bully. Secondly, this student has a right to be disappointed. This is not all about football. It is about time where students can come and support their school. Parents, grandparents, and siblings all come out to watch their children play football, march in the band, or perform at half time. It is about school spirit and people coming together as a community. Have we all forgotten that we belong to a really nice, friendly community? I don't pretend to know all about this. But I do believe that people were made aware of this expansion. Did all parties go about it properly? Probably not, but what bothers me more than anything is that out wonderful states attorney is jumping in on this because he happens to own RENTAL property in this neighborhood. He needs to step out of this and worry about PR where his kids go. Stay away! Furthermore, isn't this the same man that was brought up on charges a little while ago? Isn't this the same prosecutor that plea bargins drunk drivers and drug dealers? Bottom line, this is really a sad situation and it only proves that the only way to get something accomplished is by suing. SAD, because on the lawyers are getting rich!
Jake Flander August 13, 2013 at 10:44 PM
all the money wasted on the bleachers as well as the money that the plaintiff gets from the lawsuit if they get any will just increase the plaintiff and neighbor's property taxes, but i do believe the school should of followed the city's ordinance, the owners of the house are just changing their view from crappy bleachers and a view of the side of the brick school to shining new bleachers.

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