At a special meeting on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, the Board of Education of Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 authorized the filing of a lawsuit against the Village of Brookfield over the Village Trustees’ denial of zoning approval for the School District to construct a parking lot and move the tennis courts on the high school site immediately south of the Brookfield Zoo. The 91-space parking lot and the relocation of five tennis courts are the last significant parts of a long-term effort to modernize the high school and its facilities and to meet Illinois State Board of Education school safety regulations. The high school presently has no on-site parking and the tennis courts are to be moved at the request of Riverside School District 96 officials and community members to provide greater separation of the parking lot from District 96’s Hollywood Elementary School.
After months of community and intergovernmental meetings and hearings, the Village’s Plan Commission unanimously recommended approval of the School District’s requests to the Village Trustees. At its meeting of April 28, 2015, the Trustees rejected the Plan Commission recommendation and all but one Trustee voted against adoption of an ordinance prepared by the Village’s professional staff that would have approved the School District’s project. The Village Trustees gave no reasons for denial of the School District’s request, other than a comment by President Ketchmark to the effect that the Village was not responsible for solving the high school’s parking problems nor was it the Village’s concern if its decision had an impact on the District’s renovation plans or upcoming athletic season.
Traffic and engineering studies presented during the Plan Commission process demonstrated, and the Plan Commission found, that the parking lot would improve traffic and stormwater management in the area surrounding the high school. The parking lot project included an expenditure of approximately $1.3 million in underground stormwater storage improvements, which exceeded the requirements of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and met the requirements of the Village’s professional staff and the Plan Commission.
With the denial by the Village Trustees, the Board of Education faced two choices under Illinois zoning law -- file a lawsuit to overturn the Trustees’ decision or go through the zoning process again. The Board, District and school administration and the Board’s consultants spent a considerable amount of District resources in both time and money on the construction planning, community outreach and Village zoning process. The Board has been advised and believes very strongly that the Village’s denial is contrary to Illinois law. The Board has nothing to add to its zoning submittals and saw no realistic prospect for reversal of the Trustees’ decision if it went through the zoning process again. The Board does not take litigation lightly particularly against another public body but believes it best in terms of ultimate cost and time to ask the courts to overturn the Trustees’ decision as soon as possible.