Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 2, 2015

IL Supreme Court Holds City’s Exercise of Home Rule Authority to Enforce Zoning and Storm Water Management Ordinances Did Not Interfere With Constitutional Authority of General Assembly to Regulate Public Education System

Crystal Lake South High School, is a municipal corporation with home rule authority situated in McHenry County, Illinois. The area surrounding the school is zoned “R–2 residential single family,” and the school constituted a legal, nonconforming use. The Crystal Lake South campus is owned by Community High School District No. 155 and operated by the Board of Education of Community High School District No. 155. Residential owners of property adjacent to the high school filed suit against school Board of Education and high school district seeking to privately enforce city’s zoning restrictions with respect to construction of new bleachers for high school football stadium. The Board filed a third-party complaint against city and school superintendent, seeking declaratory judgment that city lacked authority to enforce its zoning and storm water ordinances against it. The Circuit Court, McHenry County, entered summary judgment for the City, based on determination that school property was subject to ordinances. The Board appealed, and the Appellate Court affirmed. 

Here, under the plain terms of the Municipal Code, school property was subject to municipal zoning laws because there was no statutory provision restricting the authority of a municipality to regulate zoning or storm water management on school property. As a home rule municipality, the court found that the City had broad powers to perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs, including the power to regulate for the protection of the health, safety, morals, and welfare of the public. Even though the Board contended that the application of local zoning laws to school district property unduly interfered with the General Assembly’s plenary power over public education, section 10–22.13a of the School Code permits a school board “to seek zoning changes, variations, or special uses for property held or controlled by the school district.” 

The Board next argued that school construction was not subject to local zoning laws because the School Code limits municipalities’ review and inspection of school construction plans pursuant to the Health/Life Safety Code for Public Schools. It claimed that the City was estopped from objecting to the bleacher construction project or attempting to assert its zoning laws because it never registered with the regional superintendent to receive notice of school construction plans pursuant to section 3–14.20 of the School Code. However, the City’s decision not to be notified of building code matters did not waive or diminish the City’s interest in or authority over zoning and storm water management issues on school-owned property. Accordingly, the Health/Life Safety Code did not preempt or limit the City’s authority over zoning and land use issues within its jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the city of Crystal Lake. 

Gurba v Community High School District No. 155, 2015 IL 118332 (IL 9/24/2015)

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