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Bleacher lawsuit hearing could affect Crystal Lake South home opener

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 3:15 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 12:15 p.m. CDT
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(Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com)
A view from Amberwood Drive of the new bleachers and press box at Crystal Lake Central High School Thursday, June 12, 2014.
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(Michael Smart)
Michael Smart / For Shaw Media Varsity football players hone their skills during varsity football practice at Crystal Lake South High School in Crystal Lake Wednesday, August 13, 2014.

CRYSTAL LAKE – One last legal challenge will have to be tackled before the Crystal Lake South High School football team takes the field for its home opener Sept. 5.

While Crystal Lake and Community High School District 155 have a mutual agreement to allow use of the Crystal Lake South stadium as the appellate court considers a legal challenge to the expanded bleacher structure, the residents who first brought the lawsuit have continued to push forward.

Judge Michael Chmiel, who ruled in December the school district should have gone through city zoning processes before constructing a $1.18 million bleacher expansion, is set to rule on the day of Crystal Lake South's home opener as to whether the residents' request for the district to stop violating city zoning code will be granted.

Tom Burney, who represents the neighboring residents in the case, said Chmiel has a wide range of rulings he could deliver. Chmiel could rule in favor of the district and end the case or he could rule in favor of the residents and attach demands as extreme as making the district immediately reduce the size of the bleachers and cease activities at the site until it meets city code.

Burney said Chmiel could also rule in favor of the residents and decide to give a general timetable for the district to enter the city zoning process without impeding any scheduled activities at the site. Another option could be a full jury trial in the future.

"One shoe has already dropped when [Chmiel] ruled the city has zoning authority over the district and our request is on the enforcement end of that," Burney said. "He has three or four options as to how he wants to enforce that or not."

Residents who live on Amberwood Drive near the bleachers filed a lawsuit in August 2013 after the district built a bleacher expansion without city zoning approval. The residents argued the structure is too large and too close to their property lines, which has led to an invasion of privacy especially during football games.

Chmiel ruled in December the district should have gone through the zoning process, which the district appealed. The appellate court could deliver an opinion at any time but both the city and district agreed to allow activities to continue at the site until a decision was rendered.

But with the residents' portion of the lawsuit still in play, district attorney Robert Swain said he too was unsure of what to expect Sept. 5.

"There is a full spectrum of possibilities," he said.

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