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J.D. Francis, Inc v. the Bremer County Board of Supervisors

January 9, 2013

J.D. FRANCIS, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE BREMER COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, Colleen D. Weiland, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bower, J.

The plaintiff appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant on its claims for inverse condemnation and writ of mandamus. AFFIRMED.

Heard by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

J.D. Francis, Inc. filed a petition against the Bremer County Board of Supervisors alleging one count of inverse condemnation when the board arbitrarily denied its rezoning applications, resulting in a taking of at least half the value of its land without providing adequate compensation. J.D. Francis, Inc. further requested a writ of mandamus requiring the board to initiate condemnation proceedings against certain land it owned and compensate it for the land's loss of value. J.D. Francis, Inc. now appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the board.

The undisputed facts fail to show the board's denial of J.D. Francis, Inc.'s rezoning applications and its amendment of its land use plan amounted to a regulatory taking of the value of J.D. Francis, Inc.'s property. Because the district court's grant of summary judgment was proper, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Edna C. Anhalt was the owner of 34.5 acres of agricultural land outside of Waverly. J.D. Francis, a developer and homebuilder, became interested in purchasing the property. The land was zoned as "A-1" agricultural and "A-2" modified agricultural. The land was designated by the Bremer County Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) for future residential growth and development.

On June 20, 2006, Anhalt and Francis requested the land be rezoned to "R-1" single-family residential. The 34.5 acres had an average corn suitability rating (CSR) of 53.60, a rating that classified it as "prime" agricultural land that should be preserved for agricultural use under the CLUP.*fn1 Following a public hearing, the Bremer County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended denial of the rezoning request.

The board of supervisors held a public hearing concerning the zoning request on July 31, 2006. Francis and thirty-seven residents with neighboring property attended. The board voted unanimously to deny the request finding "that good Agricultural Farm land not be taken out of production and because of many other environmental concerns."

The following day, Francis and Anhalt submitted a revised rezoning request, which excluded approximately four acres of productive farmland included in the original request. Excluding those acres dropped the CSR of the remaining 30.75 acres to 49.5. However, approximately half-or 15.46 acres-of that parcel had a CSR of fifty or higher. The planning and zoning commission again held hearings on the matter and received letters from the public regarding the request. The commission voted four-to-one to deny the rezoning request.

The board of supervisors held a public hearing concerning the rezoning request on October 9, 2006. The board voted unanimously to deny the request. The primary reason cited by the board members was the CSR and the desire to keep agricultural land.

On November 1, 2006, Francis and Anhalt filed a petition against the board of supervisors, arguing that by denying the request to rezone, it had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of the CLUP. Francis and Anhalt further alleged they had been denied equal protection and substantive due process. They sought a writ of certiorari requiring the board to certify a transcript of the October 9, 2006 hearing, and asked the court to set aside the board's action.

On November 14, 2006, Francis's corporation, J.D. Francis, Inc., purchased the property at issue from Anhalt.

The district court eventually granted summary judgment in favor of the board on Francis and Anhalt's petition. The court found the board did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in denying the rezoning request. The court stated:

The transcript of the board proceeding reflects that the board gave adequate consideration to the arguments of persons in favor and against the proposed zoning requests, after considering the factors and guidelines of the Bremer County comprehensive land use plan. Supervisor Hinderaker . . . expressly stated that the board would weigh all the factors presented at the hearing when making their decision. The board also properly considered the zoning and planning and zoning commission's recommendation to deny the request. The board heard evidence from community members relative to the lack of infrastructure around the parcel, the character of the area, adjacent land uses and agricultural concerns. As section 335.5 of the Code notes, the regulations should be designed to preserve the availability of agricultural land. The plan itself, in the implementation section, notes that consistency with the plan ...


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