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Residential & Agricultural Advisory Committee, LLC v. Dyersville City Council

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

RESIDENTIAL AND AGRICULTURAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE, LLC, an Iowa Limited Liability Company, MATT MESCHER, ALLAN R. DEMMER, CATHERINE DEMMER, WAYNE AMESKAMP, SHARON AMESKAMP, VERNON BOGE, DONALD BOGE, MARY ANN RUBLY, JOHN R. RUBLY, STEVE HOEGER, DOLORES THIER, LARRY THIER, GARY BURKLE, CINDY BURKLE, WAYNE VORWALD, LINDA VORWALD, JEFF PAPE, GERALD WOLF, JOANNE WOLF, LORRAINE M. BURKLE, and BERNARD R. BURKLE, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
DYERSVILLE CITY COUNCIL, MAYOR JAMES A. HEAVENS, MIKE ENGLISH, MARK BREITBACH, ROBERT PLATZ, MOLLY EVERS, and DAN WILLENBORG, Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas A. Bitter, Judge.

Plaintiffs appeal the district court decision denying their petition for writ of certiorari by which they sought to challenge a zoning decision by the Dyersville City Council.

Susan M. Hess of Hammer, Simon & Jensen, P.C., Dubuque, for appellants.

Jenny Leigh Weiss and Douglas M. Henry of Fuerste, Carew, Juergens & Sudmeier, P.C., Dubuque, for appellees.

Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Mullins, J., and Sackett, S.J. [*]

VOGEL, P.J.

The plaintiffs appeal the district court decision denying their petition for writ of certiorari that sought to challenge a zoning decision by the Dyersville City Counsel. The plaintiffs assert that under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.1406 the issues before the court at the initial hearing were limited to the sufficiency of the petition for writ of certiorari, whether an injunction should have been issued, and whether a bond would be required. They contend the district court improperly considered the merits of the case before they had an opportunity to conduct discovery. We conclude the district court improperly decided the merits of the petition for writ of certiorari after the initial hearing, rather than confine its decision to whether the writ should be issued. We reverse the decision of the district court and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings

On September 4, 2012, the Residential and Agricultural Advisory Committee, L.L.C., and twenty-three individuals[1] (plaintiffs) filed a petition for writ of certiorari and request for stay and injunction against the Dyersville City Council, the mayor of Dyersville, and the individual city council members (city council). The plaintiffs alleged the city council had acted (1) in violation of Iowa law, (2) in violation of Dyersville city ordinances, (3) in excess of its authority, (4) arbitrarily and capriciously, and (5) in contravention of public safety, health, morals, and the general welfare by passing Resolution Number 38-12, which rezoned certain property from A-1 Agricultural to C-2 Commercial. The property in question included that known as the "Field of Dreams."

The plaintiffs raised the following specific claims regarding the actions of the city council:

a. The city council failed to make written findings and conclusions, which they were required to make.
b. The city council failed to consider the impact of the development, and there was no specific site plan.
c. The city council violated the open meeting laws of Iowa and the quasi-judicial requirements associated with the process of rezoning the property.
d. The city council failed to remain impartial, in violation of their ...

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