Judge Rules Suburban School Violated Law by Building Bleachers

Thursday, Dec 19, 2013  |  Updated 10:56 AM CDT
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Gunman's Aunt in Crystal Lake Speaks Out pt. 2

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Crystal Lake Battles Over School Bleachers

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. Anthony Ponce reports.

Gunman's Aunt in Crystal Lake Speaks Out pt. 2

Marsha Lanza of Crystal Lake, Ill., answered questions about her sister-in-law Nancy and nephew Adam the morning after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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A McHenry Count judge on Wednesday sided with residents near a northwest suburban school, ruling that school officials violated the law by not going through the city’s zoning process before building a new set of bleachers.

Judge Michael Chmiel ruled tat city ordinances in zoning matters applied to school districts, but did not order school officials to take down the stands, according to the Northwest Herald.

Area residents sued over Crystal Lake South High School’s renovated stands for their football field, because they said the school didn’t seek permission from the city to build the bleachers. School officials, however, claimed 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.

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.

The ruling leaves the fate of the bleachers in the hands of the school district.

The district could decide to go through the zoning process and obtain proper permits, challenge the ruling at the appellate level or attempt to move forward with the bleachers in place and agree to use city processes for future projects, the Northwest Herald reported.

School officials reportedly plan to review the judge’s 22-page written opinion before determining their next move.

All parties are expected to return to court on Jan. 22 to reveal the school’s decision.

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