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Thursday, September 24, 2015

City Prevails in School Bleacher Case

In what can only be reported as good news for municipalities in Illinois, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its opinion today in the high school bleachers case, ruling in favor of the city.  Gurba v. Community High School District.

Regular blog readers will recall that we have written about this case a number of times.  A local high school had installed bleachers at the high school without going through the zoning process. The high school argued that it was not subject to local zoning. Both the city and neighboring property owners challenged the school's position in court, and a circuit court and appellate court ruled in favor of the city. The case was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The opinion is pretty short, so it's worth a read.  The Court acknowledges that the case turns on the issue of whether a school district is subject to local zoning and land use regulations.  The Court first notes that municipalities have express statutory authority to regulate all land uses within their territory, subject only to "express statutory exclusions.  The court identified a few of these exclusions, including restrictions on the ability of municipalities to regulate political signs and ham radio antennas.  However, the Court noted that there is no statutory provision restricting the authority of a municipality to regulate zoning or storm water management on school property.  As a result, the Court held that under the plain terms of the Municipal Code, school property is subject to municipal zoning laws. The Court also noted that the City had broad home rule authority to zone and regulate land uses.  

The Court rejected the school district's argument that zoning and land use regulations interfere with the district's statutory authority over public education, as well as its attempt to extend the statutory exemption from local building regulations to zoning and land use regulation.

The Court's conclusion was quite simply put:
As a home rule municipality, the City has the power to regulate land use within its jurisdiction through zoning. There is no statute which exempts school district property from the exercise of the City’s zoning laws. Accordingly, we hold that the bleacher construction project undertaken by the Board and the District is subject to the City’s zoning and storm water ordinances.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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