Football season might be over for the Crystal Lake South Gators, but the battle over their field’s new bleachers isn’t.
Area residents are suing over Crystal Lake South High School’s latest development, renovated stands for their football field, because they say the school didn’t seek permission from the city to build the bleachers. The school, however, says they didn’t need to.
The new bleachers were built over the summer after school officials said the old stands were deemed “structurally unsound.”
The bleachers were reconstructed to eliminate gaps under fans’ feet and now stand just over 47 feet tall and 192 feet wide, officials said. That marks a 5-foot increase in height and more than triples the width of the old bleachers (pictured below).
The school claims the construction plans were discussed during an “open meeting process” and permits were approved by the regional superintendent.
“We sought permits in the way we always have and received those permits,” said Jeff Puma, director of communications for Community High School District 155.
Puma said the school typically seeks permits from with the city for projects related to utilities or roadwork.
But attorneys for the residents and city argue the district acted improperly when it built the $1.18 million expansion without going through the city zoning ordinance process, according to the Northwest Herald.
Residents are concerned about the size of the bleachers, with many nearby complaining that fans can see into their homes, and others claiming the stands prevent sunlight from reaching their windows.
"We bought this place because it was so open and sunny in the backyard," said neighbor Kim Gurba. "The noise is twice as loud. When they stomp to cheer, it sounds like thunder back there... they just totally bypassed the city of everything and informing the neighbors."
And the city's mayor agrees.
"What the school district did, unilaterally putting up these bleachers, block out the sun from three or four homes in that area, was that they took property from those neighbors," said Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley. "They did that without any due process whatsoever."
Judge Michael Chmiel is expected to rule in December on whether school code will overrule home-rule municipal zoning in cases of construction on school grounds.