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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Law Authorizes Zoning Hearing Procedural Rules

On August 25, 2011, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 1056 amending the zoning provisions of the Illinois Municipal Code to authorize municipalities (other than Chicago) to establish rules of procedure for zoning hearings.  The new law, Public Act 97-0552, provides as follows:

Sec. 11-13-22. Public hearing procedures for municipalities of less than 500,000.
In a municipality of less than 500,000 inhabitants, the corporate authorities may adopt or authorize the zoning board of appeals and any other board, commission, or committee that conducts public hearings under this Division to adopt rules of procedures governing those public hearings. The rules of procedures may concern participation in public hearings and the participants' rights to cross examine witnesses and to present testimony and evidence, and any other relevant matter.

Arguably, municipalities already had authority to adopt rules of procedure, and many have rules of procedure in place. However, express statutory authorization eliminates any dispute that a municipality, particularly a non-home rule one, can establish local rules of procedure for the conduct of zoning hearings.

What does this new law mean for Illinois municipalities?  While the law does not require a municipality to adopt rules for its zoning hearings, a municipality should consider establishing, at a minimum, a basic set of rules and procedures for its hearing bodies.  As many communities have discovered, one controversial zoning application can turn what should otherwise be a straightforward public hearing process into something akin to a full blown trial.  A defined set of procedural rules that addresses issues that most plan commissions and zoning boards of appeals rarely, if ever, encounter (such as the right of cross-examination and subpoenas) will promote efficiency and fairness in the hearing process. 

More information about this new legislation can be found at:


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