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New Bill Seeks to Redefine Municipal Authority to Regulate School Zoning

Author: William C. Westfall

April 14, 2016

Last September, we reported on Gurba v. Community High School District No. 155, where the Illinois Supreme Court found that “school property is subject to municipal zoning laws.” Now, one state representative has taken the initiative to codify a municipality’s authority to regulate school districts operating within their respective zoning jurisdictions. However, the bill comes at a cost to municipalities. As the bill specifically preempts home rule authority, even home rule municipalities will be subject to the bill’s requirements.

As currently written, the bill would provide municipalities with less control than indicated in Gurba. Under the bill, municipalities “shall not deny or attach inappropriate or unreasonable conditions to a zoning permit that would frustrate a school board’s ability to provide educational services and programs for its students.”

Furthermore, it provides expedited procedures for zoning applications by school districts. For example, if a decision is not made by the municipality within 90 days, the application is passed automatically. It also provides a deferential appeal process for the school district. If the reviewing court believes the zoning ordinance unduly interferes with the functions of the board, the zoning ordinance simply does not apply to the school district.

We will continue to provide updates on the status of this bill as it moves through the Illinois legislature.