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On August 25, 2016, Governor Rauner signed SB 2186, which provides that a school district is subject to local zoning ordinances, but zoning authorities must simplify the zoning application and review process for school districts, and must not regulate a public school district’s educational activities. Public Act 99-0890 became effective immediately upon signature.

Public Act 99-0890 follows up on the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in Gurba v. Community High School District No. 155, which we reported on here, finding that school districts are required to comply with the zoning requirements of local municipalities.  Building on that decision, the new law amends the School Code to specifically provide that “a school district is subject to and its school board must comply with any valid local government zoning ordinance or resolution” that applies where the property is located, which may include municipal, county, and township zoning ordinances.

The amendment also imposes certain obligations on the municipalities, counties, and townships that impose zoning requirements on public school districts.  Specifically, municipalities, counties, and townships must “act in a reasonable manner that neither regulates educational activities, such as school curricula, administration, and staffing, nor frustrates a school district’s statutory duties.”

Moreover, municipalities, counties, and townships must “make reasonable efforts to streamline the zoning application and review process” and “minimize the administrative burdens involved in the zoning review process.”  Such efforts must include, but are not limited to reducing application fees and other costs “to the greatest extent practicable.”  While the amendment does not specify the maximum amount of fees, it requires that fees imposed on a school district be “reflective of actual cost” and must not be more than the lowest fees customarily imposed for similar applications.

Municipalities, counties, and townships must also streamline the zoning application process by “limiting the number of times the school district must amend its site plans, reducing the number of copies of site plans and any other documents required to be submitted.”  Finally, zoning authorities must expedite the zoning review process for the purpose of rendering a decision within 90 days of the submission of an application from a school district.

Please contact Dean Krone or Kerry Burnet Pipal with your school zoning questions.