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Thursday, March 20, 2014

School Districts Weigh In On Zoning Bill

As reported on March 5, 2014, Sen. Pamela Althoff (32d Dist. McHenry County and Lake County) is sponsoring SB 2647. This bill clarifies that school districts are subject to local zoning authority. Unsurprisingly, representatives for schools across the state have weighed in.  They raise three specific issues:

1) construction delays caused by the local zoning process;
2) review costs associated with the local zoning process; and
3) multiple agencies reviewing district proposals for zoning compliance.

The school districts would like Sen. Althoff to amend her bill to address these concerns. As currently drafted, Sen. Althoff’s bill is a simple, elegant and effective measure that reaffirms municipal zoning authority over school district property.  SB 2647 doesn’t change the current law; rather, it clarifies the rights local zoning authorities already possess.  School districts have long been required to comply with local zoning ordinances and this legislation simply confirms that. 

Our thoughts on the concerns raised by the school districts:

1)   Establishing an arbitrary time limit on public zoning deliberations raises obvious due process concerns and may promote gamesmanship by districts interested in stifling public dissent. 
2)    Similarly, waiving application fees designed to reimburse cities for the time and resources their staff dedicate to evaluating proposals for zoning compliance needlessly usurps municipal discretion and turns a cost-neutral service into an unfunded municipal liability. 
3)   Finally, districts’ concerns regarding duplicative review processes appear to be a red herring.  Local zoning authority is not shared by other agencies; therefore, there is no need for districts to be concerned about multiple agencies reviewing applications for zoning compliance.     

Municipal authorities are encouraged to contact their state legislators and provide effective counterpoints to the school districts positions.

Post Authored by David Silverman, Ancel Glink


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