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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Planning Organization Opposes School Zoning Bill

This week, the legislative committee of the American Planning Association, Illinois Chapter (IL-APA) issued a "Legislative E-Blast" expressing its opposition to HB 6421 and asking municipalities to contact their state legislators to oppose the bill. If passed, HB 6421 would "water down" municipal zoning authority over schools. The bill appears to be an attempt by school lobbies to counter the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in Gurba v. Crystal Lake South High School District involving the school district's construction of bleachers in violation of municipal zoning regulations.  

IL-APA's E-Blast is reprinted below: 

Legislative E-Blast
Legislative Committee
American Planning Association – Illinois Chapter

House Bill 6421, Amends Municipal Code to give Schools Preferential Zoning Treatment

Sponsor: Representative Carol Sente (D – 59th District, Lake and Cook Counties)

Summary: Representative Sente has introduced legislation, designated HB 6421, that would amend the Illinois Municipal Code and School Code to alter local zoning authority over school property.  The bill would prohibit municipalities from imposing “unreasonable conditions” on zoning permits sought by schools, cede municipal authority over site and design considerations to schools, and impose new limitations on the municipal zoning review process.

Status: HB 6421 was filed on March 11.  The bill has yet to be introduced or referred to committee.  No sponsors other than Rep. Sente have signed on to the bill.

Analysis: HB 6421 appears to respond to the costly and protracted litigation involving Crystal Lake South High School.  Last year, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the high school was subject to local zoning and stormwater authority.  Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent arguing this issue before Illinois’ trial, appellate, and supreme courts.  Instead of working to restore intergovernmental cooperation, though, this bill appears poised to create more conflict between schools and municipalities.  The bill’s failure to define what constitutes an “unreasonable condition” to a zoning permit will almost certainly encourage more court fights, and giving schools a pass on local design standards and review procedures raises significant concerns about the welfare of neighborhoods bordering school property.  The bill also appears to subject legislative decisions made by elected municipal officials to administrative review, a concept foreign and contrary to Illinois law.

Recommendation: Contact your state legislators to oppose HB 6421 as introduced.


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