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First American Bank v. Urbandale Laser Wash, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

FIRST AMERICAN BANK, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
URBANDALE LASER WASH, L.L.C., WALNUT CREEK LASER WASH, L.L.C., and STEVEN GOLDEN, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Arthur E. Gamble, Judge.

         A bank appeals the district court's order allowing a judgment debtor to designate a portion of his property as his homestead. AFFIRMED.

          Jonathan E. Kramer of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Kelsey K. Crosse, Matthew E. Laughlin, and Sarah E. Crane of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         First America Bank appeals the district court's decision allowing Steven Golden to carve out approximately a one-half-acre piece of land from the property he owns to designate as his homestead. The bank asserts the ability of a homeowner to select and plat a homestead under Iowa Code chapter 561 (2015) should be subject to the local zoning ordinances and rules regarding the division of property. Because Golden's property cannot be subdivided in compliance with the controlling city ordinances, the bank claims Golden should not be entitled to claim a homestead exemption. Golden claims the division was proper because the rights of the judgment debtor to protect his homestead from execution are jealously guarded and cannot be eliminated by local ordinances that prevent property from being further divided.

         This is the third time these parties have been before this court. In First American Bank v. Urbandale Laser Wash, 874 N.W.2d 650, 651-52 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015), this court was asked to decide whether the district court properly granted the bank's summary judgment motion in a foreclosure proceeding. In Golden Enterprises, L.L.C. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., No. 15-0824, 2016 WL 2748234, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. May 11, 2016), we were asked to resolve a discovery dispute regarding whether subpoenas issued to Golden's company and spouse were unduly burdensome or sought irrelevant information. In this third matter, we must determine whether Golden may plat a homestead under Iowa Code chapter 561, protecting his home from execution, when the resulting property division violates the local city zoning ordinances.

         In September 2015, after the in personam judgment of foreclosure was entered against Golden, the bank filed a notice of sheriff's levy and sale, seeking to sell at public auction Golden's home in the city of Clive. Golden moved to quash the sale, asserting the property was his homestead and that he was in the process of replatting the property because it exceeded the one-half acre allowable as a homestead under Iowa Code section 561.2-"If within a city plat, it must not exceed one-half acre in extent . . . ." The bank resisted the motion to quash, asserting the city ordinances prevented the lot on which the house was situated from being further subdivided but agreeing a hearing should be set for the court to determine pursuant to section 561.6 the applicability of the homestead exemption. Pending the hearing, the bank agreed to cancel the sale.

         Thereafter, Golden filed a notice of homestead plat with the district court and attached to that notice a land survey with a legal description of the property he was claiming as a homestead. The entire lot totaled .94 of an acre. Golden carved an irregular shaped area consisting of the driveway, the home, and some lawn surrounding the home. In addition, he carved out a small 1.61-foot-wide strip of land encompassing the perimeter of the property, [1] with his total homestead totaling .48 of an acre. The remaining land on all sides of the home was excluded from the homestead designation. The following is a map of the designation.

         (Image Omitted)

         The bank moved to strike the homestead plat, asserting it was not a proper certified plat or subdivision plat as those terms are defined in Iowa Code chapters 354 and 355 and the plat did not conform to the city zoning ordinances, resulting in the creation of two nonconforming parcels. The bank asked the court to conclude that because no subdivision of the land was possible to remain in compliance with the local ordinances, no homestead rights could attach to the property. Golden resisted the bank's motion to strike his homestead plat, noting the plat was not required to be a certified or subdivision plat under chapters 354 and 355, and claiming it was proper under chapter 561.

         The matter came on for hearing before the district court on December 22, 2015. The bank, as a creditor, sought for the district court to establish the boundaries of the homestead under section 561.6. The court then accepted the plat designation filed by Golden, explaining a creditor cannot levy upon the debtor's homestead and filed an order adopting the same. The bank appeals.

         The execution of the foreclosure judgment was heard in equity, and thus, our review is de ...


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