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Judge rules in city's favor in Crystal Lake South bleacher dispute

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 11:19 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 4:12 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – The City of Crystal Lake prevailed in the first round of legal battles to determine which government body had authority in a summer bleacher expansion project initiated by Community High School District 155.

Judge Michael Chmiel issued his written decision Wednesday morning at the McHenry County Courthouse, saying that School District 155 should have taken its expansion plans to city of Crystal Lake for zoning approval.

District officials are still determining whether to appeal that ruling or retroactvely bring the project through city zoning procedures.

If appealed, the case could find its way to the Illinois Supreme Court as it could set precedent about the relationship between home-rule communities and school districts.

Both sides claimed they had building authority in a $1.18 million bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake South High School, with city attorneys citing its home-rule status and zoning process and school district lawyers pointing to the regional superintendent's responsibility to enforce its own building code.

The lawsuit was initiated in August when three residents – including McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and his wife – with property next to the bleachers said the district failed to follow the city zoning process and made the structure too large and too close to their property lines.

The school district later brought the city and regional superintendent into the lawsuit to determine whether the regional superintendent or city had zoning control over district projects.

District officials contend that the permits they received from Regional Schools Superintendent Leslie Schermerhorn were enough to move forward with the project, while city officials said the district broke the law in bypassing their zoning process.

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