Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court

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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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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.

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Plaintiffs, landowners, challenged special assessments against their property for public improvements to a residential subdivision made by the city. Plaintiffs argued that the city council's decision to make public improvements within a subdivision rendered the city unable to assess the costs of the improvements to the landowners when a city ordinance provided for the improvements to be made by the subdivider. The district court (1) determined the city failed to enforce a subdivision ordinance requiring the subdivider to pay for street improvements but concluded that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because a city cannot be sued for its failure to enforce ordinances; and (2) found the assessments were not excessive. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, (2) the city's failure to require the subdivider to personally make all improvements did not invalidate the authority of the city to assess property owners, and (3) the Plaintiffs did not establish the assessments to their property exceeded the special benefits provided by the improvement.