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Hawkeye Land Co. v. City of Coralville

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 12, 2013

HAWKEYE LAND COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF CORALVILLE, IOWA, Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Robert E. Sosalla, Judge.

Hawkeye Land Company (Hawkeye) appeals from the district court ruling denying its application for a permanent injunction.

Jon M. McCright, Cedar Rapids, and Andrew Potter, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Kevin D. Olson, Coralville, and Terry J. Abernathy and Stephanie L. Hinz of Pickens, Barnes & Abernathy, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Hawkeye Land Company (Hawkeye) appeals from the district court ruling denying its application for a permanent injunction.[1] Hawkeye seeks to prevent the city of Coralville, Iowa (Coralville) from constructing a street extension over railroad tracks in which Hawkeye claims an interest, and argues the district court erred in denying its application for injunction. Because we find that Hawkeye has an adequate remedy at law, we find no error.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Hawkeye filed an application for an injunction on April 6, 2012. The subject of its application is a parcel of land and railroad tracks located in Coralville, Iowa, which have, until recently, represented the southern end of Coral Ridge Avenue. The application is Hawkeye's response to the city of Coralville's decision to extend Coral Ridge Avenue over the tracks for purposes of providing street access to a developing subdivision.

Prior to beginning construction on the street extension, Coralville did not initiate eminent domain proceedings. Instead, the city engaged in negotiations with Heartland Rail Corporation (Heartland) under the belief that Heartland, not Hawkeye, held the rights necessary to approve the street extension over the railroad tracks.[2] An agreement was reached between Coralville and Heartland.

Ownership of various rights with respect to the railroad tracks is the sharpest point of contention between the parties. Hawkeye and Heartland both claim to have received ownership rights from the railroad's original owner, Chicago Pacific Corporation (CPC). Heartland claims to have purchased rights from CPC and then granted the rights to operate the rail line to Iowa Interstate while retaining the right to grant certain types of easements, including easements necessary to construct a street over the tracks. Coralville argues it has purchased such an easement. Hawkeye argues it purchased certain rights from CPC, including the right to grant easements for "transportation and transmission systems" by "whatever means, " which it argues includes streets. The dispute is: which entity actually possesses the right to grant easements necessary to extend Coral Ridge Avenue over the tracks and whether that entity has been properly compensated. If Hawkeye possesses the necessary rights, the street extension could constitute a taking under the Iowa Constitution requiring eminent domain proceedings and payment to Hawkeye. If Heartland owns the right to grant easements, eminent domain proceedings are not necessary because Coralville has compensated Heartland.

II. Standard of Review

We review the issuance or denial of injunctions de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; Max 100 L.C. v. Iowa Realty Co., ...


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