Zoning Law for Illinois School Districts: Continuing Challenges and Opportunities

The Illinois Supreme Court ruling of Gurba v. Community High School District, mandating that schools are subject to municipal zoning ordinances, continues to burden school districts. School board members and design team partners now face a host of new obstacles to overcome during the building permitting process.

Since the 2014 ruling and the new enforcement of zoning laws for Illinois school districts, our team has worked with school and architecture clients to navigate the new approval process and expedite projects as quickly as possible.

Along the way, our team has identified the following challenges and opportunities we feel school board members and design partners should be aware of prior to conducting site development projects:

One District, Multiple Municipalities: Sometimes larger school districts are tasked with juggling several zoning requirements enforced by multiple cities and villages. Experienced civil engineering consultants know the intricacies of the permitting process and can assist with securing the necessary approvals.

Consider a Tree Preservation Plan: Gone are the days when districts could execute landscape projects without a landscape plan.  Work with a landscape architect to develop a tree preservation plan to document existing trees, decrease landscape budgets, serve as the basic framework for a masterplan, and potentially lower the number of required trees.

Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Congestion: Did you know if projects only modify access they are not subject to municipal zoning review? Traffic and parking consultants can determine the requirements, design the improvements, and help school districts accomplish student safety initiatives.

Ask for a parking variance: Many schools do not meet parking zoning requirements for the number of spaces or parking space dimensions. Parking consultants can assist districts with submitting parking variances to reduce these requirements.

To learn more about how our team of civil engineering, traffic and parking, and landscape architecture consultants can help with your K-12 project, visit us at booth #510 during the Joint Annual Conference or contact us here.