Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Illinois Supreme Court Affirms that School Board Must Comply with Municipal Zoning

The case of Gurba v. Community High School District No. 155 worked its way up to the Illinois Supreme Court, after the trial and appellate court had ruled in favor of the City of Crystal Lake’s zoning authority over the school district. The controversy in the Gurba case involved the construction of stadium bleachers at a high school that were constructed despite the City ordering the district’s board of education to obtain all necessary permits and zoning variances, and which the district never sought or obtained. At specific issue was whether the school district, an independent unit of local government, was subject to another local government’s zoning and land use regulations.

The Supreme Court held that “[i]n the absence of express statutory exclusions, municipalities are empowered by the Illinois Municipal Code to regulate all land uses within their territory.” The Court further reasoned that because there is no statutory restriction on a municipality regarding land regulations on school property, that “school property is subject to municipal zoning laws.” The Court also found that the School Code recognizes that school districts are subject to local zoning ordinances because otherwise the statute that authorizes the school boards to “seek zoning changes, variations, or special uses for property held or controlled by the school district” would be meaningless.

The Supreme Court rejected other arguments raised by the school district as well, such as the argument that the Health/Life Safety Code for Public Schools preempts municipal regulations pertaining to any construction standards on school district property.

Brad Stewart

Author: Brad Stewart