Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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The Dyersville City Council voted to rezone the area containing the Field of Dreams movie site from agricultural to commercial in order to facilitate the development of a baseball and softball complex. Community members filed writs of certiorari, arguing (1) since the city council acted in a quasi-judicial function, the city council’s act of passing the ordinances was invalid; and (2) there was sufficient opposition to the rezoning to trigger a unanimous vote of the city council contained in the city code. The district court annulled the writs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the city council acted in its proper legislative function when it rezoned the subject property, and both ordinances were validly passed; and (2) no procedural or substantive errors affected the city council’s rezoning decisions. View "Residential & Agricultural Advisory Committee, LLC v. Dyersville City Council" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Iowa City Board of Review reclassified eighteen properties from commercial to residential for property tax purposes because the properties had recently been organized as multiple housing cooperatives. Two Iowa corporations organized the cooperatives under chapter 499A of the Iowa Code. The City of Iowa City appealed, arguing that the Board’s reclassification was improper because two natural persons, not two corporations, must organize multiple housing cooperatives under the Code. The City also argued that the organizers did not properly organize the cooperatives because each cooperative had more apartment units than members and section 499A.11 requires a one-to-one ratio. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Board and the intervening housing cooperatives. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) two Iowa corporations may organize a multiple housing cooperative under chapter 499A; and (2) the Code does not require a one-apartment-unit-per-member ownership ratio for a multiple housing cooperative to be properly organized. View "City of Iowa City v. Iowa City Bd. of Review" on Justia Law

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Dolphin Residential Cooperative, Inc. owned an apartment complex in Iowa City that consisted of twenty-two buildings comprising four hundred residential units. The Iowa City assessor classified the multiunit apartment buildings as commercial property for tax assessment purposes. Dolphin challenged this classification, arguing that because it was a multiple housing cooperative, organized under chapter 499A of the Iowa Code, the property should have been classified as residential property. The Iowa City Board of Review denied Dolphin’s request to reclassify the property, determining that because Dolphin was not properly organized under chapter 499A, Dolphin failed the organizational test for residential cooperatives adopted by the Supreme Court in Krupp Place 1 Coop, Inc. v. Board of Review. On appeal, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Dolphin, concluding that Dolphin met the organizational test set forth in Krupp and ordering the Board to reclassify the subject property as residential property for tax assessment purposes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Dolphin was not properly established under section 499A.1(1), and therefore, the district court erred when it granted summary judgment to Dolphin and denied summary judgment to the Board. View "Dolphin Residential Coop., Inc. v. Iowa City Bd. of Review" on Justia Law

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The City of Waterloo agreed to transfer to a residential developer property the City originally acquired for use as a road right-of-way. Taxpaying residents of the City challenged the legality of the proposed transfer, arguing that the City failed to follow statutory procedures for the sale of unused right-of-way, including compliance with certain appraisal, notice, right-of-first refusal and public bid requirements. The district court dismissed the case, concluding that the subject property was not unused right-of-way. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the property was unused right-of-way, and therefore, the City could not sell or transfer it to the developer without first following the procedure prescribed in Iowa Code 306.23. View "Hartog v. City of Waterloo" on Justia Law

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A lakefront property was zoned residential but was historically operated as a marina pursuant to special-use permits allowing nonconforming use. The Supreme Court previously held that while the use of the property as a marina was lawful under the special-use permits, the permits did not allow an expansion of use that included on-premises consumption of alcohol with live entertainment, karaoke, and full-moon parties. The owner of the property subsequently sought to operate a bar on a structure called the Fish House Lounge, which was moored to the marina's seawall but was capable of getting underway in the lake. Fish House had a liquor license from the State. The district court found the arrangement amounted to a nonconforming use of the property in violation of the City's zoning regulations and entered an injunction (1) prohibiting the use of the marina property to provide access to or parking for the bar and to provide other services for the bar; and (2) prohibiting the property owner from serving alcohol on any structure moored to the premises. The Supreme Court affirmed but directed the district court to modify its injunction to prohibit nonaccessory activities solely on the land within the geographic boundaries of the City. View "City of Okoboji v. Parks" on Justia Law

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Property owners (Owners) had a lengthy dispute with Linn County over whether houses they had built were subject to the County's zoning and subdivision ordinances. In two separate decisions, the Linn County Board of Adjustment (Board) (1) denied an agricultural exemption for a six-acre parcel that included Owners' residence, and (2) denied an agricultural exemption for a second house on a forty-three-acre parcel that Owners argued was an additional farmhouse. The district court found that substantial evidence support both decisions of the Board and denied Owners' petitioners for writ of certiorari. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the Board's determinations that the houses at issue were not "primarily adopted, by reason of nature and area, for use for agricultural purposes." View "Lang v. Linn County Bd. of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reviewed the district court's ruling consolidating condemnation appeals from proceedings by two separate condemning authorities taking property from the same parent tract of farmland. The takings were four months apart for unrelated projects. The district court consolidated the landowner's appeals, finding common question of law or fact and a lack of prejudice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that consolidation was an abuse of discretion, as (1) fact finders must determine just compensation for different types of takings by separate condemning authorities four months apart for unrelated projects; and (2) certain evidence in each case would be inadmissible in the other, thus creating a substantial risk of prejudice and jury confusion. Remanded for separate trials. View "Johnson v. Metro. Wastewater Reclamation Auth." on Justia Law

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Members of the Old Order Groffdale Conference Mennonite Church are forbideen from driving tractors unless their wheels are equipped with steel cleats. A Mitchell County road protection ordinance forbade driving such vehicles on the highways. Matthew Zimmerman was cited for operating his tractor in violation of the ordinance. Zimmerman moved to dismiss the citation on the ground that his federal and state constitutional rights to free exercise of religion had been violated. The district court overruled Zimmerman's motion to dismiss, concluding that the ordinance (1) was both neutral and generally applicable, and (2) survived strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ordinance as applied to church members violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment where the ordinance (1) was not of general applicability because it contained exemptions that were inconsistent with its stated purpose of protecting Mitchell County's roads, and (2) did not survive strict scrutiny because it was not the least restrictive means of serving what was claimed to be a compelling governmental interest in road protection. Remanded for an order of dismissal. View "Mitchell County v. Zimmerman" on Justia Law

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The board of directors of a nonprofit condominium association approved necessary but nonemergency repairs to the association's parking garage without a full vote by its members. The repairs were completed at an amount eight times greater than the theshold in the bylaw, which required preapproval of a supermajority of owners to authorize certain expenditures exceeding $25,000. Several condominium owners sued for a judicial declaration that the board's violation of the bylaw's preapproval requirement excused their obligation to pay. The association counterclaimed against the owners to collect their share of the completed repairs and for attorney fees. The district court ruled in favor of the owners. The Supreme Court reversed, (1) holding that the business judgment rule applies to the governance decisions of this board when it acts within its authority; and (2) because the bylaw at issue was ambiguous, the Court deferred to the board's authority under the governing declaration to decide questions of interpretation or application of the bylaws. Remanded. View "Oberbillig v. W. Grand Towers Condo. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this condemnation case, Plaintiffs brought an action against the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the State. IDOT's motion to dismiss was granted. Subsequently, the district court granted summary judgment for the State, concluding that Plaintiffs' exclusive remedy was a mandamus action to compel condemnation proceedings. The court then dismissed the first action. Before the district court had entered its summary judgment ruling, Plaintiffs petitioned for writ of mandamus against IDOT in a second action. After the court granted summary judgment for the State, IDOT filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the dismissal of the first action barred Plaintiffs from bringing the second action under both claim and issue preclusion. The district court disagreed and granted Plaintiffs' requested writ of mandamus. Defendants appealed on the issue of claim preclusion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that when a court order dismissing an action reveals the court's intent to preserve a claim arising out of the same transaction that is pending in another lawsuit, the claim in the other lawsuit should be allowed to proceed. View "Lambert v. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law