Legislation making its way through the Illinois General Assembly, seemingly in response to Lyons Township High School District 204’s attempted sale of land it owns in Willow Springs earlier this year, would impose special rules for all school districts in Illinois – and only for school districts.
Not only would it require school districts to offer that land to other local government agencies first, it would impose a requirement to get three appraisals related to the specific zoning for the land and then choose the middle appraisal as the sale price should another government agency wish to buy the land.
This is, of course, all fallout from LTHS’ attempt to sell 70 acres it owns in Willow Springs to an industrial developer. The land isn’t zoned for industrial development and village, park and school officials went berserk. The village of Willow Springs insisted it would not change the zoning and the deal was off.
A chastened LTHS school board has said it’s not fielding offers, for now, but if it wants to sell the land in the future, it looks like it will do so wearing a set of handcuffs. The state Senate voted unanimously for the legislation which is pending debate and a vote in the House.
Whether or not LTHS’ school board acted improperly with respect to the sale — and the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor sure thinks the board violated the Open Meetings Act in discussing more than just the price for the sale of the land in closed session – we’re not sure of the need to handcuff every school board in the state when it comes to selling property.
Imagine if a municipality or a park district or a county or the state itself was mandated by law that they had to consider selling land to specific other public bodies – at a reduced price – before putting it in on the open market.
They’d throw a fit, and rightly so. The goal of a property sale, especially property belonging to a public body, is to maximize the price. We’ll state, again, that this panic whipped up regarding LTHS sale to an industrial developer was purely political.
The land would never be developed for that purpose, because the village of Willow Springs refuses to change its zoning code. But getting land for a bargain? Sure, Willow Springs would be great with that, at the expense of those served by LTHS.