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Mary Ellen Molinaro, As Executor of the Estate of Robert J. Molinaro v. City of Waterloo

May 15, 2013

MARY ELLEN MOLINARO, AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT J. MOLINARO, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF WATERLOO, IOWA, AND JAMES E. WALSH JR., CITY ATTORNEY, CITY OF WATERLOO, IOWA, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, David F. Staudt, Judge.

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

The Estate of Robert Molinaro appeals from the district court's ruling granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing Molinaro's petition for a writ of mandamus. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Danilson and Mullins, JJ.

The Estate of Robert Molinaro appeals from the district court's ruling granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing Molinaro's petition for a writ of mandamus. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

This matter arises out of a proposed development agreement between the City of Waterloo ("City") and Sunnyside South Addition, LLC ("Sunnyside"). Sunnyside proposed that the City vacate and convey a portion of the existing right-of-way of West Marnan Drive to Sunnyside. Robert Molinaro, an owner of property near, but not adjacent to, the right-of-way in question, filed a petition seeking a writ of mandamus and temporary injunction concerning the sale and conveyance of the unused right-of-way.*fn1 Among other things, Molinaro asserted the City had failed to "give certain notices to specific parties prior to selling the unused [right-of-way]" as required under Iowa Code section 306.23 (2011), and he requested a writ be entered requiring the City to comply with the requirements of Iowa Code chapter 306.*fn2 The City answered, denying it failed to comply with the requirements of section 306.23.

The City later filed a motion for summary judgment asserting, among other things, that Molinaro lacked standing to seek a writ of mandamus. Hearing on the matter was set, and Molinaro asked that it be continued so he could conduct discovery.*fn3 The City resisted, alleging that none of the facts Molinaro sought to obtain would establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he had standing to raise a claim under section 306.23. Molinaro's motion to continue was ultimately set and heard with the City's motion for summary judgment at an unreported hearing, and both motions were comprehensively briefed and argued by the parties.

Thereafter, the court entered its order denying Molinaro's motion to continue, and granting the City's motion for summary judgment on all counts. As to the section 306.23 issue, the court concluded:

[Molinaro] alleges that owning property on the west side and the north side of Sunnyside Golf Course constitutes him owning property adjacent to the real property in question that will be sold to [Sunnyside]. The court has reviewed Iowa Code § 306.23 which provides description of the owners of tracts, parcels, or pieces of land or parts thereof which would be entitled to notice concerning the sale of the property by a government agency as the aforementioned have a right to the preference of sale. The court concludes that under Iowa Code § 306.23(2) [Molinaro] is not an adjacent property owner nor was he a person who owned the land at the time it was purchased or condemned for highway purposes and as such is not entitled to notice or the preference of sale.

Molinaro filed a motion to reconsider, stating he "never asserted in [his] pleading, brief or argument to the court that he was entitled to notice from [the City] because of his status as an adjacent or previous land owner." He asked the court to rule on the specific allegations of standing that he asserted to the court, i.e., that he was an "interested party" within the standards of Godfrey v. State, 752 N.W.2d 413 (Iowa 2008). The court denied the motion, and found:

To the extent the court may have misinterpreted [Molinaro's] arguments concerning his ownership of property that could be construed as being adjoining the property in question, then the court is in error. In any event, no evidence was presented to the court establishing that [Molinaro] had rights under Iowa Code § 306.23 and as such is not entitled to the relief sought . . . . Molinaro now appeals.*fn4

II. Scope and Standards of Review.

We review the district court's summary judgment rulings for the correction of errors at law. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; Alliant Energy-Interstate Power & Light Co. v. Duckett, 732 N.W.2d 869, 873 (Iowa 2007). Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.981(3); Walderbach v. Archdiocese of Dubuque, Inc., 730 N.W.2d 198, 199 (Iowa 2007). A fact question arises if reasonable minds can differ on how the issue should be resolved. Walderbach, 730 N.W.2d at 199. The court reviews the record in a light most favorable to the opposing party, and we afford the opposing party every legitimate inference the record will bear. Frontier Leasing Corp. v. Links Eng'g, ...


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