Today, we’re looking at a spat between two units of local government: a municipality and a school board. The decision in Gurba v. Community High School District No. 155, 2014 Ill. App. 2d 140098 (September 3, 2014) from Illinois addresses the reach of a City’s zoning laws to a football stadium project undertaken by the local school board. We see alot of government versus the private property owner. But who wins between units of government?
A School Board decided to rearrange the bleachers in a high school football stadium to “improve traffic flow inside the stadium”. The School Board “did not proceed under the City’s zoning code or notify the City”.
(1) A school district’s constitutional mandate to provide for education does not preempt or otherwise preclude the enforcement of local government ordinances. Yes, a local government may not “enact ordinances that infringe upon the realm of public education, such as by changing local graduation requirements or some other action that would affect the content or substance of the public education being offered ….” Stormwater and zoning ordinances, as “land-use regulations”, “have no inherent impact upon the substance of public education.
(2) School districts and municipalities are distinct, constitutionally speaking. Municipalities are “home-rule units”, which cannot be said of school districts, and “in the case of a conflict between a home-rule unit and a school district, there is a slight bias toward the home-rule unit”.
(3) The School Board’s own code “suggests that the local school board must apply for a zoning change variance, or special use rather than exercise zoning powers itself.” The canons of statutory construction — expressio unius est exclusio alterius — lead to the holding that the School Board and its project are subject to the City’s zoning and stormwater ordinances.