District 155 Extends Court Battle to Include City of Crystal Lake, Regional Superintendent

Battle over the $1.18 million bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School is expanding to other governing bodies.

The view of the new Crystal Lake South Gators football stadium from the field.
The view of the new Crystal Lake South Gators football stadium from the field.

Community High School District 155 has expanded the legal dispute over the new $1.18 million bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School to include the city of Crystal Lake and McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools.

Attorneys for District 155 told McHenry County Judge Thomas Meyer on Wednesday the district planned to file a cross-claim suit to bring the city and regional superintendent into the legal proceedings.

While the District 155 attorneys had e-mailed Crystal Lake attorneys of the pending suit at 6 p.m. Tuesday, they had not formally served the city with the legal papers, according to city officials.

"This is essentially an extension of the current lawsuit to bring the city and (regional) superintendent into this so we can get all the parties involved and the neighbors into the court," District 155 attorney Robert Swain.

Jean Bianchi, one of three Amberwood Drive homeowners suing the district over the installation of the new stadium, said news of the district's third-party complaint ultimately sticks taxpayers with the bill.

"(District 155) is suing the city, and the regional superintendent, and the taxpayers are now being hit three times," Jean Bianchi said Wednesday after the court hearing. "This could have been handled better."

Bianchi and her husband, Louis Bianchi, who serves as McHenry County State's Attorney, and her neighbor Jeff Gurba filed a lawsuit Monday against Community High School District 155, hoping to preserve their property values.

Crystal Lake South High School is located at 1200 S. McHenry Ave., Crystal Lake.

The residents' properties back up to the new 51-feet-tall bleachers (which includes the press box). The new steel structure stands only 41 feet from the lot line instead of the 50 feet required per city zoning ordinances.

"We didn't expect to get any financial gain from this lawsuit," Bianchi said. "All we hoped was to get our backyards back."

The homeowners are upset because they never received any notification about the project - no mailings or signs posted. Without warning, they said, construction began this summer, which also surprised city officials who hadn't even glimpsed the project's plans.

"This was a covert operation," Bianchi said. "It was never open. When they installed the new soccer fields, (District 155) sent notices to the homeowners and invited them to a meeting to discuss the plans. Never did they come and tell us this was going on."

The city contends District 155 must file the same zoning variation application requests and follow the same review process required of every other homeowner, business and organization in the city.

District 155 officials say they obtained the necessary permits from the McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools and do not need approval from the city.

According to city planners, District 155 needs zoning approval for the height and size of the bleachers, as well as storm water permits. The size of the stadium - which could seat up to 3,900 spectators - likely will require a determination of how many parking spaces the school needs to provide to accommodate that many spectators.

The homeowners' attorney Michael Burney, asked Judge Meyer to issue a temporary restraining order against the district's ongoing construction work on the bleachers. Thomas denied granting the restraining order, noting the city of Crystal Lake has already issued a stop-work order on the project.

The city issued two stop-work orders in person and by e-mail. However, the district never ceased construction work until 10:30 a.m. this past Monday, after city officials had printed up a small notification, laminated it and posted it at the construction site.

"If the school district wants to complete the project (going against that stop-work order), they do so at their own peril," Judge Meyer said. "The remedy in this case may be to tear (the bleachers) down....a TRO (temporary restraining order) isn't going to change anything. The fact that the structure may be unpleasant doesn't change the fact that it may go away."

Meyer also denied the homeowners' request for the temporary restraining order because the case, he said, did not meet the standards of "irreparable harm." In circumstances involving irreparable harm, something that has been changed has been damaged to the point that it cannot be fixed.

In the case of the bleachers, the stands could be taken down, thereby "repairing" any harm done.

Attorneys for the district requested the judge issue a temporary restraining order to dissolve Crystal Lake's stop-work order, but the judge continued that matter until 9 a.m. Friday, to allow the city and the regional superintendent of schools to be present during that decision.

District officials told the judge the bleachers project is about 95 percent completed. The district only needs about five days to finish the bleachers and is hoping to finish the stands so the Gators can use them this football season.

The Gators Varsity Football team's first home game is Friday, Aug. 30. The team has three other home games scheduled including Sept. 20, Oct. 4 and Oct. 11. 


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

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

CL Proud August 14, 2013 at 04:49 PM
"(District 155) is suing the city, and the regional superintendent, and the taxpayers are now being hit three times," Jean Bianchi said Wednesday after the court hearing. "This could have been handled better." Mrs. Louis Bianchi, I could not have said this better myself. It could have been handled better if your husband would stick to his REAL JOB and prosecute criminals instead of plea bargins! Again, I say, stay out of this, you have a RENTAL HOME which you purchased knowing that the school was already there!
Roger Brock August 14, 2013 at 04:58 PM
What amazes me is that District 155 wants to proceed with the project even though no inspections on the concrete footings or any review from a reliable source other than the subcontractor, that these stands are even safe to seat 3900 people !!! They are taking a monumental risk !!!!
Kim G. August 14, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Spending 1.18 million $$ for 4 games a year is insane.
michael rothstein August 15, 2013 at 10:48 AM
1.8 million dollars for bleachers, and now one public entity suing another, all at the taxpayers expense! In this day and age this is unacceptable. 1.8 million for bleachers??? I wonder why they did not want to make their plans public!
Chris August 21, 2013 at 12:41 PM
This is about the safety of the bleachers and making sure those who use them are not in danger and the school district not taking responsibility for assuring that safety. Trusting that the contractor does a good job without it being inspected by an expert is irresponsible of the school district and just plain stupid for anyone. All time, effort, money, and what ever you think you are saving will be pointless if someone gets hurt because safety was not a priority. We teach the athletes to practice, exercise, stretch, and prepare so they do not get hurt, but we build things and skip the safety part to save a few bucks or not deal with the hassle of getting a permit. Really! For the homeowners I agree you should have been notified of the construction as part of due process. However, the value of your property has already been affected by the bleachers and football field behind your house, you likely paid less then someone with a similar home that does not have a school behind it and you will sell it for less then those without bleachers behind them. Eventually you will find a buyer/renter to take pay your price, after all you moved in, so someone else will. How about we be good citizens and focus on the safety of the students and fans and not on the money.


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