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Friday, January 20, 2012

School Districts are Subject to Municipal Zoning

The issue of whether school districts must comply with municipal zoning ordinances has been a subject of debate between the districts and municipalities for some time.  Under Illinois law, school districts are not subject to local building codes, and instead must follow the building regulations contained in the Illinois School Code.  Some school districts have taken the position that this preemption of local building control also extends to zoning.  The Illinois Attorney General recently addressed the issue of local zoning control in an opinion dated December 23, 2011, No. 11-005.

The question posed to the AG was "whether Illinois public school districts are subject to either municipal or county zoning ordinances."  The AG responded that "public school districts are subject to municipal and county zoning ordinances, except to the extent that compliance with local zoning would frustrate a school district's statutory objectives." 

The opinion began with a summary of relevant statutes granting authority to municipalities and counties over zoning within their jurisdictions.  The opinion then analyzed provisions in the School Code, including Section 10-22.13a that provides that school boards may "seek zoning changes, variations, or special uses for property held or controlled by the school district," as well Section 10-20 providing that the authority granted by the School Code "does not release a school board from any duty imposed upon it by this Act or any other law."  Reading these two statutory provisions together, the AG determined that these statutes would be rendered superfluous if school districts were completely exempt from local zoning. 

In short, according to the Illinois Attorney General, school districts are subject to municipal zoning ordinances.  If a local zoning ordinance would interfere or frustrate the school district's statutory objectives, however, a school district can seek judicial review.  There is no automatic exemption in these circumstances; instead, the issue of whether a zoning ordinance frustrates a school district's objectives is a question of fact for the judge to resolve. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.

1 comment:

  1. I think school zoning projects are important for the safety of the students. i have to agree with you that if a local zoning ordinance would hinder the school district's statutory objectives, a school district can seek judicial review anytime.

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