Crystal Lake South to finish, use bleachers while lawsuit proceeds
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Attorneys agreed Friday to allow Community Unit School District 155 to complete a $1.2 million bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake South High School while a lawsuit is proceeding against the district.
The move essentially punts the legal matter to next week and coming months to be litigated. But it will ultimately allow sports, physical education classes and marching band to go on unimpeded at the school, which opens Aug. 26.
"They're going to do everything they can (to finish)," said Robert Swaim, an attorney for District 155. "Losing the last week (of construction) hurt. It's a good resolution all the way around."
"I think cooler heads prevailed here, allowing the district to get back into the kid business," added District 155 School Board President Ted Wagner.
The agreement also ensures the school's football team would not have to play its first home game Aug. 30 at an alternate location.
But no real long-term solution was reached Friday.
Attorneys will meet Aug. 23 in front of Judge Michael Chmiel, when more court dates will be spelled out. A worst-case scenario is that the district would have to remove the bleachers.
The matter came to a head this week when three residents ó including McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and his wife, Jean ó sued the district.
They argued that the district did not follow proper zoning rules and regulations before beginning the project in June. The project replaces the visitors bleachers on the west side of the stadium with a larger set, something residents of Amberwood Drive argue hurts their quality of life because the new set is closer to their property and towers over their backyards.
The city of Crystal Lake issued a "stop work order" Monday. On Friday, Crystal Lake City Attorney Justin Hansen said the city agreed not to enforce the order and the potentially $1,000-a-day fines while the case is hammered out in court.
"We're not doing that in any way as a concession of our authority," Hansen said, adding if the district finishes construction, it does so "at its own risk.
"Our legal positions on this are exactly opposite one another. We have zoning authority over that particular piece of property," he added. "In the meantime, the students can enjoy the facility."
District 155 officials maintain the McHenry County regional superintendent of schools has the final say.
Bianchi, the county's top legal officer, did not attend either court hearing this week. He has said he felt an obligation to go forward with the lawsuit because the bleachers affect his neighbors and investment property on Amberwood.
Jean Bianchi, who attended Friday's hearing, said she is happy the football team's season won't be interrupted and the dispute won't spill over and affect students now.
"We don't want them caught in the crossfire," she said. "As residents and homeowners, we just want the school district to work with the city."
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