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Judge: District 155 Must Follow Crystal Lake's Zoning Laws

McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel rules District 155 should have followed the Crystal Lake's zoning laws when building the $1.18 million bleachers this past summer at Crystal Lake South High School.

The new $1.18 million bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School.
The new $1.18 million bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School.
After nearly five months of legal wrangling, a judge has ruled District 155 should have complied with Crystal Lake's zoning laws when building the $1.18 million bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School this past summer.

McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel read his decision Wednesday morning before a courtroom filled with Amberwood Drive homeowners and attorneys for the city, District 155 and McHenry County Regional Office of Education.

"The issue here is regarding the ordinances the city has on its books, and whether the school district can ignore them, and I don't believe it can or should," Chmiel said. 

Chmiel plans to send a 20-page written decision in the case to all the parties involved later today. The document will more clearly explain his ruling.

Attorneys for Community High School District 155 said they will have to see the 20-page ruling before deciding what to do next. They could choose to forward the case to the Illinois Appellate Court in Elgin. 

"We're disappointed with what we heard today," District 155 attorney Robert Swain said. "We thought we followed the process. We will talk to the school district to see what they want to do."

Following the ruling, Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley said District 155 officials and attorneys should not have been surprised with today's decision. Rather, school officials should have seen this coming, he said.

"The school district behaved improperly," Shepley said.

"They thought they were above the law, and this decision confirms they are not above the law....Constructing these bleachers without following any process and notice, deprived these homeowners of their constitutional rights. And, frankly, any reasonable person would look at what they did and realize it was just unfair."

Homeowners Jeff Gurba and his wife, Kim Maselbas, who filed the lawsuit against District 155 in August along with homeowners Louis and Jean Bianchi, said they were happy with the judge's ruling and hope the new bleachers can modified, dismantled or decreased in size.  

"Those bleachers are like an erector set," Gurba said. "They are made of steel. They could easily be taken down."

"The bottom line is that we just wanted District 155 to comply with the law," Gurba said. "If they had done that months ago, we wouldn't be here. The district has been arrogant, and hasn't had any regard for the homeowners." 

Gurba stressed he and his family never wanted to negatively affect the students, the football players, track members, or South families with their lawsuit. They simply want the structure to comply with the city's zoning laws, which restrict the height, size, capacity and setback from the neighbors' property lines. 

"If the school board had done what it was supposed to do in the first place (follow the city's zoning process), this never would have impacted the athletes," he said. 

To date, District 155 has spent $117,000 on legal fees in the battle of the bleachers. Swain said those fees are being covered by the school district's insurance company.

Shepley called District 155's actions "frivolous," adding that the city and Regional Office of Education are paying their own legal bills. 

"There are three governing bodies involved in this case," Shepley said. "Insurance isn't covering our expenses, or the ROE's expenses. I hope the school district thinks long and hard before they waste more taxpayers' dollars."


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mike price December 18, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Let's see if the high school raises the fees and or tries to require more taxes for the local homeowners
Shannon December 18, 2013 at 02:35 PM
$1.18 million dollars? Are you kidding me? Thats where my tax dollars went. So disappointed.
Stacey Nicole December 18, 2013 at 03:13 PM
These bleachers are hideous and unnecessary. From everything I've seen and all the research I've done the district is in the wrong. They didn't give the residence behind these bleachers any warning, any chance to argue this at all. That is what the zoning and approval from the city is for so crystal lake residence this effects can voice there concerns. As for anyone that thinks this is anything to do with money, its not nor has ever been. They are requesting the district follows laws with permits and whatever else like the old superintendent has always done with any and all projects the school has ever needed. This Dr T in my opinion is a compulsive liar, and is neglecting his job tremendously, hes lied to the homeowners, the press, the city and even news and newspapers saying they have never gotten permits and zoning approval for any projects. news flash the city has approved 27 permits that was provided from the city and zoning office. Also along with his salary of $190,000.00 a yr the tax payers are paying along with his $10,000.00 bonus for not meeting ANY of the destricts requirements for him for the yr oh and lets not forget the district credit card he has racked up more then $35,000.00 dollars with stuff that city home owners like many of you are paying with your taxes. Funny thing is the old superintendent Dr Hawkins credit card statement was only $300.00 for her last year of service for the school district. Why on earth do we as taxpaying citizens have to pay for him to be eating at high end restaurants, and gas for his vehicles, and for his trips to Las Vegas? Everyone needs to stop and realize who we have teaching and governing are children and realize what there teaching your kids in these schools that district 155 is in charge of. all they are teaching anyone is that its ok to lie and bully and that if you have enough money its okay to push the little person around, not true. these people are fighting for there rights as homeowners and to show that the district is in the wrong, PERIOD!!!!!
Concerned Citizen December 18, 2013 at 07:00 PM
I agree with Stacey! We as taxpayers in this town are struggling as it is and this idiot is driving around in a vehicle, that most of us probably could not afford, paying for his gas and other PERKS! WE are paying him $190,000 a year so that he can go out and live the high life, plus the $10K bonus to a tax free retirement fund of his choice, the same as Donn Mendoza! We as the citizens of this town need to stand up and say enough is enough. I am furious at the thought that an increase in enrollment fees will even be considered to cover this idiot's butt! It is time for him to go. I think that it would be in the districts best interest to hold a community meeting, for all to attend, and let us know where they are going to get the money to pay for this idiots decisions! Our son will be attending high school in 2 years and if you think for one minute that we are going to pay higher fees, to cover the lawsuit or fixing the bleachers, D155 has another thing coming. Maybe a petition should be started stating that Dr. T should give back his salary, plus his retirement money, to fix this problem. Not only that, where in the h**l does the district get off paying someone $190K to be a superintendent. In reality, they are not the ones that are running their tails off, it is the everyday office worker that is doing the real leg work. Note to D155: It is quite obvious that you don't always get what you pay for:Dr. T. I truly hope that he is not a doctor of psychology, because he truly pulled the wool and $$$ right out of our pockets! I don't think that there is a person in this town that has any respect for this man and doesn't deserve any. Do you think that the students can actually look at this man with any respect?
Tim December 19, 2013 at 08:18 AM
Secretary: what do I do with this huge attorney bill for the bleacher lawsuit ? Superintendent: The same thing you did with the bill for the bleachers....throw it on the taxpayer accounts payable....they don't care....they won't even notice. They could have hired more teachers that might result in some young person being inspired to become educated in a subject that might lead him or her to change the world, to make it a better place. No, they chose to spend over a million on a pile of metal that will be largely unused, and that created a very costly controversy, all while filling some attorney's pockets. Done with complete arrogance of being above the laws of the land....nice bonus lesson for the students too...
Concerned Citizen December 19, 2013 at 09:53 AM
Maybe in the high school, all students should be forced to take classes that educate them on our own school board and review all of the contracts of the superintendents and the perks that they receive. It would be one of the most enlightening and valuable courses offered. I think that the students would be outraged! That goes for the contracts and perks for the administration at MCC also!
Railroaded December 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Tim: Oh you mean just like the City of CL has done in raising taxes recently ? AND spending more of our/my tax $$ on this lawsuit against Ourselves?
S.H. December 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM
The city didn't choose to be a part of this. The district pulled them into it by suing them. They had to defend themselves aka us/taxpayers. You should be glad your city is willing to do this. This is their job to take care of the citizens/taxpayers whether it is just 4 homeowners or 2000 homeowners. The city is right not going along with a school district that builds illegal structures.
Railroaded December 19, 2013 at 12:22 PM
NOT AT MY EXPENSE! its not OK! once again they go off on their own agenda!!!!hidden and otherwise, of what suits them! enough is enough! stop spending my $$ for the few! once again not caring about the city as a Whole! just the few!
S.H. December 19, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Boy, you should pray that nothing ever effects your property where you just might need the support of your city, police or fire dept. After all you are only 1 and we should only care about you if you are many. Bullying at it's best. You must work for D155. That is exactly what they are teaching your kids.
Roger Brock December 19, 2013 at 08:40 PM
And now D155 must decide what to do with Mr. High falutin Superintendant. FIRE HIM !!!!
McCloud December 20, 2013 at 01:46 PM
You could do that, but these guys get paid out the wazoo for the rest of their lives, too many union dollars (our money) to the leaders who make it so.
Railroaded December 20, 2013 at 04:32 PM
S.H. IT HAS! No More!!! enough is enough!! its time these spending Sprees Stop!!!

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