CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill., Oct. 6, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Community High School District 155 board of education today filed a petition for leave to appeal seeking Illinois Supreme Court review of a recent appellate court decision that Crystal Lake South High School's newly constructed bleachers should be subject to the City of Crystal Lake's zoning ordinances. The district also filed an appeal of a trial court order directing retroactive municipal zoning approval of the project.
State law, as set forth in the Illinois School Code, requires that the planning and construction of school facilities must be approved by the Regional Superintendent of Education, a locally elected county official charged with oversight and supervision of all K-12 public education districts.
"This is how District 155 has always managed school construction projects, and in this case, we followed this process to the letter," said Community High School District 155 Board of Education President Ted Wagner. "We filed this request with the Illinois Supreme Court because it is our duty to be responsible stewards of the taxpayer resources that funded this project. The district is trying to protect its taxpayers from additional costs that could result from a retroactive zoning process, since we know the project was fully approved by the proper authorities."
McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Education Leslie Schermerhorn reviewed and approved District 155's plans to construct the new bleachers and has indicated her support for its efforts to seek a definitive legal opinion from the state's highest court on this matter, noting that "this issue has implications that extend far beyond District 155 and will impact school facilities planning statewide for years to come."
Because of the significance of this matter to public school districts throughout the state, District 155's attorneys (the Arlington Heights-based law firm of Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn LLP—a leading firm in school law) have agreed to provide legal services for this matter on a pro bono basis at no cost to the district.
"These recent court rulings will drastically change how public school facilities are built, maintained, and used," said Robert E. Swain, a partner at the firm who has served as lead counsel on the district's litigation of this matter. "Until now, no court has ever ruled that property used for public school purposes is subject to municipal zoning. In fact, the closest court cases have gone the other way—determining that public schools are exempt from local building codes and public universities are exempt from local health and safety ordinances."
"District 155 is committed to being a good partner to the Crystal Lake community. We are and have always been open to making compromises to address the privacy and quality of life concerns of our residential neighbors," emphasized District 155 Board of Education President Wagner. "We are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will agree to hear this case and, ultimately, affirm that District 155 took the proper actions in the planning and construction of this project."
Wagner noted that District 155 has made a number of accommodations to minimize any adverse impact, including relocating portable restroom facilities to a more remote location, increased security during games and when the bleachers are not in use, and restricted access to top and side seating. Additionally, the district hired a forestry consultant to explore options to create an aesthetic and natural buffer between the bleachers and its neighbor's properties.
If they stand, the trial and appellate court rulings would mean that all previously completed school facilities, both in District 155 and throughout the state, would now be subject to retroactive municipal zoning review—even though they had already been approved by the local regional superintendents. This would have significant financial implications for school districts that are already working hard to maximize taxpayer resources under reduced state funding.
Future school projects across the state will incur additional costs and delays because they would also be required to go through both the Regional Office of Education permitting process and the municipal zoning process—two parallel and redundant procedures.
About Community High School District 155
Community High School District 155 is comprised of four high schools, including Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, and Prairie Ridge, and an alternative education center, Haber Oaks. The district serves more than 6,500 students from several cities throughout McHenry and Lake counties. More than 93 percent of its Class of 2014 continued their education beyond high school. In 2014, District 155 was recognized by the College Board for the second consecutive year as an AP District Honor Roll high school district. It is one of only 18 Illinois districts to receive this honor two years running. For more information: www.d155.org.
District 155's Mission: For each student, we will inspire a love for learning, empower the pursuit of personal aspirations, and nurture a desire to contribute to the world.
SOURCE Community High School District 155