Bianchi, et al, Win Crystal Lake South High School Bleacher Suit

South High School Bleacher port-a-=potties 9-30- 213

The new Crystal Lake High School bleachers.

Judge Michael Chmiel’s decision in favor of neighbors of the ginormous Crystal Lake South High School bleacher was upheld by the 2nd Appellate Court Wednesday.

A summary of the opinion, the first pitting a Home Rule municipality against a school district, might read, “A municipality’s Constitution Home Rule power trumps a school district’s statutory authority.”

The neighbors “objected to the District’s decision to build bleachers that violated the zoning and stormwater ordinances of the City of Crystal Lake (the City) by being too big, too high, and too close to the property line,” the opinion explained.

Michael Chmiel

Michael Chmiel

Another suit in the zoning dispute was filed by the City of Crystal Lake against High School District 155 and Regional Superintendent of Education Leslie Schermerhorn.

The ruling is summarized below:

“The trial court held that the Board was subject to the City’s zoning and stormwater ordinances, and the Board appeals, contending that the court’s ruling represented an unconstitutional infringement on the Board’s and the Superintendent’s power.

“We disagree and affirm.”

District 155 argued that for constitutional and statutory reasons that it was exempt from the Crystal Lake Zoning and Stormwater Ordinances.

The Appellate Court focuses on this State constitutional language on public education:

“…“[t]he Board, except as limited by law, may establish goals, determine policies, provide for planning and evaluating education programs and recommend financing.” (Later the opinion points out that nothing in the Constitution concerning education has “anything to do with land use and whether a school board or district is subject to the local municipality’s zoning regulations.”)

It also references this part of the State Constitution (which, the opinion notes, was not cited by the Crystal Lake School Board):

“[t]ownships, school districts, special districts and units, designated by law as units of local government, which exercise limited governmental powers or power in respect to limited governmental subjects shall have only powers granted by law.”

The Court lays this language against the Home Rule powers of municipalities:

“Except as limited by this Section, a home rule unit may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt.”

The conclusion is that

“There are…several provisions that suggest that, in the case of a conflict between a home-rule unit and a school district, there is a slight bias toward the home-rule unit.”

It notes that in a conflict between a county’s Home Rule powers (Cook County only) and those of a Home Rule municipality, the municipality wins.

“On the other hand, the constitution is careful to emphasize the limited authority of school districts,” the opinion continues.

Moving on, the opinion says,

“We conclude that there is clear support for the trial court’s determination that the Board was subject to the City’s zoning ordinances.”

While District 155 argued that “home-rule powers must be subordinate to anything that touches on public education,” the reviewing court disagreed.

While conceding the School Board’s contention that public education involves matters of statewide concern, the opinion says, “… the front line of implementing public education, remains rooted in the local community.”

Another argument of District 155 is dismissed as “a strained and misleading interpretation.”

In response to the school’s argument that zoning cannot be asserted by Crystal Lake, the Court said,

“We disagree. The City’s zoning ordinances regulate land use within the City’s boundaries. They do not speak to the topic of public education or otherwise seek to intrude into the realm of public education.”

The Court notes that a recent Attorney General’s Opinion noted “…nothing exempting local school boards or school districts from compliance with local zoning regulations…”

The school board tried to hang its exemption from zoning regulations on the Health/Life Safety Code statute.

That didn’t work as the opinion says it “…r, the Health/Life Safety Code itself does not deal with zoning considerations…”

Later, “We do not notice any provisions in the Health/Life Safety Code that deal with land use or zoning…”

“Requiring conformity to the City’s zoning ordinances will not prevent the Board and the District from carrying out their duties to provide public education to the residents of the District.”


Bianchi, et al, Win Crystal Lake South High School Bleacher Suit — 22 Comments

  1. Let’s see if District 155 appeals to the Illinois Supreme Court.

    School Districts hate to lose court cases.

    School Districts get piles of money from local, state, and Federal sources and too many act as if they are operating a Kingdom.

    Really, it seems pretty logical if you are building a big structure, go talk to the city about it.

    But instead they use their questionable logic to just go ahead and build.

    Not a nice neighbor.

    District 155 still doesn’t bother to tape board meetings and place them on the website (live stream, video tape, or audio tape.

    So whatever doesn’t make it to board minutes is lost forever.

    Do they think taxpayers don’t want a verbatim record of what was said in meetings?

    District 155 Board, not a nice neighbor and not transparent.

    Ted Wagner—President
    Gary R. Oberg, M.D.—Vice-President
    Jim Nelson
    Dave Secrest
    Barbara Slusin
    Ann Somers
    Karen Whitman

    If you ever want to know what is going on in government, you at least need a record of what happened.

    If you think some watchdog is going to all these meetings to represent you, you are probably wrong.

    Usually what happens is a watchdog gets involved, goes to meetings for a few years, gets the runaround from the board and administration (whom think they are the experts and they are always right), gets burnt out and irritated that no one else wants to watchdog, gets tired of their FOIA denials and games, and stops going.

    If you think the press sends a school board expert to all school board and board committee meetings and expertly analyzes the meetings, budgets, finances, and spending, you are wrong.

    At the very least you need a verbatim record of what was said at the meetings, so you can listen to it when issues arise.

    This is 2014.

    There is no excuse for a district the size of 155 to not tape all board meetings.

  2. ​”P.A. 97-0609.

    The data of P.A. 97-0609 is posted in District 155’s Human Resources Office and may be viewed in the office.”


    Do you know what that is?

    A report that should be posted on the internet.

    District 155 does not post it on the internet.

    oopsie doopsie.

    Gee whiz, no penalty, a slap on the wrist, if anyone even bothers to call them out on it.

    I’ve never seen a school district ask taxpayers to go to the office to view a report that should be posted on the internet.

    Some don’t bother posting the report.

    But then again there are over 800 school districts, so maybe there are some other non transparent districts pulling the same stunt.

    These people go to conferences at your expense, and the law is pretty easy to read, they know the report should be on the internet.

    Crystal Lake taxpayers are getting the shaft.

    And this district is not transparent based on all public board and board committee meetings should be taped, and the above report should be posted on the internet.

    No doubt we could find other areas of non transparency.

  3. Here’s the path to the report that’s not posted on the CHSD 155 website. > Human Resources > P.A. 97-0609.

    The report should list all employees whom contribute to the IMRF pension fund whom receive a total compensation package (salary, health insurance, a housing allowance, a vehicle allowance, a clothing allowance, bonuses, loans, vacation days granted, and sick days granted) of $75,000 or greater.

    Transparent reports are itemized, meaning the compensation is broken down by category on the report for each employee, rather than listing a lump sum for each employee.

  4. Guess who pays when a taxpayer supported government is sued?


    Learn from the Grafton Township fiasco: VOTE OUT THE INCUMBENTS!!

    We need honest citizens on School Boards.

    Citizens who are not influenced by the local Superintendent and the teacher unions!

    MCDOT policy is being dictated by MCDOT employees who DIRECT the Chairman, Miller what to do.

    She actually believes she is there to ‘SELL’ whatever MCDOT staff comes up with!

    The same happens in School Boards.

    Most school board members RUBBER stamp whatever the Superintendent comes up with.

  5. OOOPs guess the school district doesn’t make the rules after all….lol…

    It appears that the people humbled their as…ses along the way…lol…

    Now, I hope those home owners go after them for what they have lost.

    Just remember, members of that infamous school district their are consequences for your actions……

  6. “Accordingly, we reject the Board’s argument, and we condemn the Board’s disingenuity in the strongest possible terms.”

    Thank you Appellate court!

  7. The links are for the new Open The Books Snapshot reports and show:
    – Top 25 individual salaries for year 2012.
    – Total Annual Salaries and Employee Counts by year from 2001 – 2012.
    – Top 25 individual pensions for year 2012.
    – Top 25 vendors.
    District 47 is the Crystal Lake Elementary District.
    District 155 is the Crystal Lake, Cary, and Fox River Grove High School District.
    What do the reports show.
    The salary increases in District 155 far exceed the salary increases in District 47.
    From the report.

    Elementary District 47.
    Since 2002, Total Annual Salaries has increased by +58.19% over Consumer Price Index (CPI) = (inflation).

    High School District 155.

    Since 2002, Total Annual Salaries has increased by +114.12% over Consumer Price Index (CPI) = (inflation)

    Note, in general, high school districts pay more than elementary districts, with unit districts (high school and elementary schools in the same district) falling in the middle, in any given community.

    So District 155 is not a friendly neighbor to the village in building the bleachers without consulting the village, does not record and archive on the website board meetings and board committee meetings, and does not post the IMRF Compensation Report for employees earning over $75,000 on its website (as is required by state law Public Act 97-0609 (PA 97-0609).

    Apparently no one that knows how school districts work is watching this school district on a regular basis.

    There is the tax group which got the district to hold the line on property tax increases.

    But other than that, apparently no skunk at the picnic, as Jack Roeser used to say.

    They are more than happy to spend you money as they see fit.

    Usually salary and benefit increases are at the top of the list.

    Along with bond referendums to work in fancy buildings.

  8. Now, as bad as that is, it gets worse.

    Each of these taxing districts is looking out for their own kingdom.

    They can barely manage that.

    Whose looking over the empire?

    No one.

    What is the empire?

    All taxing districts, pension funds, retiree healthcare funds, etc. to whom you pay taxes and where your taxes ultimately end up.

    Federal, State, Local.

    What does that mean?

    No one knows the extent of the excess spending, debt, and unfunded liability problem.

    So what happens when quite a few of them start asking for more money because they have been playing kick the can and hide and seek?
    Increased taxes, decreased services, some combination thereof, resulting in a lower quality of life.

    We have been and are living an unsustainable dream.

    We already shelled out hundreds of billions for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to purportedly prevent the 2007 – 2008 recession from becoming a depression.

    That money must be repaid.

    How will we get ourselves out of the state and local debt and IOU (pensions, retiree healthcare) crisis?

    And what’s a big cause of this mess?

    Is the static and stable Illinois Pension Code?

    Hell no.

    It’s the dysfunctional legislature tinkering with the code in exchange for campaign contributions, votes, and electioneering assistance.

    Jacking up the pension benefits.

    But not telling the voters.

    All you hear is the union mantra, a pension is a promise.

    Promises, promises, promises.

    New promises every year for the last 40+ years.

    Sure is nice of your state legislators and Governors to create new promises to hike pensions with your money going to public sector worker pensions, without telling you about it.

  9. The more they get, the bolder they get.

    Those bleachers are just one more example of the audacity of far too many of these kingdoms.

    They are a symbol, a very visible symbol, of government dysfunction.

    Neighbors complain the bleachers cast a shadow over their yard, blocking out sunlight.

    That’s exactly what these taxing district kingdoms do.

    They find all sorts of ways to block the sunlight.

    They keep you in the dark seemingly on purpose.

    Because with all their fancy degrees, it’s hard to imagine they are that dumb or forgetful.

  10. Perhaps the idealistic young people who attend this school and hate injustice will “Boycott The Bleachers”.

    It would make a powerful picture to show a completely empty construction of seating at an otherwise crowded event.

  11. Teaching our young people the power of non violent protest, is an enduring lesson.

    We don’t have to yell from the mountain top to make our point, we can take a stand.

  12. Good old Sovereign Immunity, so not even a civil tort here, to hold this crew accountable.

    When do taxpayers get fed up with this Brit inherited,’the king can do no wrong’ , for every misstep by the Public Secter?

  13. Does CHSD 155 have an electronic board packet for the public (and for themselves) prior to the board meetings?

    If so where are the packets located?

    There are documents in the board minute pdf, but that’s after the meeting, that’s not what I’m talking about.

    The board packet would contain all the documents that are up for approval at the board meetings.

    And how quickly are those board minutes posted after the meeting?

    There’s a couple of possible scenarios in terms of what is happening at CHSD 155.

    First, is there a watchdog.

    Second, does the administration have the board wrapped around it’s figure, vice versa, are they in cahoots, or what is going on over there.

    Usually in school boards there are a few people amongst the board and administration calling the shots and everyone else is expected to toe the party line.

  14. Good point on tort.
    Google Illinois School District Tort Insurance and you’ll learn a lot about why school districts act the way they do.

  15. Many school districts pull stunts like this all the time.

    The difference here is the bleachers are so visible you can only miss them if you are literally blind.

    What kind of stunts?

    Basically if it’s a controversial item, shhhhhhh, slip it on the consent agenda if possible and hope noone bothers to look or question the item.

    Items in the consent agenda are approved in bulk with one vote and thus are not even scrutinized individually.

    Even if the item is not on a consent agenda, if no one goes to the board meeting or listens to the tape, what difference does it make.

    And if someone does question the item, if possible, isolate them, spread rumors and innuendos, somehow minimize them, after all, the administration is the experts, what does the dumb public know.

    Not everyone is like that obviously.

    But many are.

    We certainly didn’t get into our current financial mess by everyone being on the up and up.

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