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Effective August 25, 2016, Public Act 099-0890 (the Act) clarified that school districts are subject to local government zoning regulations. The legislature characterized the Act as “declarative of existing law,” as opposed to it being a substantive change.

The Act is the legislative response to Gurba v. Community High School District No. 155, the case in which the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a school district wrongly evaded local zoning ordinances when it unilaterally started construction on a large set of bleachers for its high school football stadium. The Court ruled that school districts must comply with the local zoning regulations of the municipalities where they are located.

The Act effectively makes Gurba part of state statute. The School Code is amended to clarify that “a school district is subject to and its school board must comply with any valid local government zoning ordinance…” (105 ILCS 5/10-22.13a). The Municipal, Township and Counties Codes are amended to state that units of local government, in processing school districts’ zoning applications, “shall make reasonable efforts to streamline” the process and “minimize the administrative burdens” (55 ILCS 5/5-12021, 60 ILCS 1/110-70, 65 ILCS 5/11-13-27). Further, units of local governments are directed to “act in a reasonable manner that neither regulates educational activities…nor frustrates a school district’s statutory duties.”

The Act is the legislature’s attempt to strike a balance. While school districts are expressly required to comply with local zoning rules, local authorities cannot use their zoning powers to unreasonably burden school districts.

There was some discussion by the Illinois Supreme Court in its Gurba decision of the home rule powers granted to the municipality involved in the case. The Act clarifies that school districts in all municipalities, both home rule and non-home rule, are subject to local zoning regulations.

Please contact your Tressler attorney with any questions about how this new law impacts your unit of local government.