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AL Brueggeman v. Osceola County

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

AL BRUEGGEMAN, DAN BREUKER, TOM BREMER, ROGER BOSMA, MARK DILLEHAY, RANDY ROWE, ALLEN ROWE, and JARROD WALLACE, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
OSCEOLA COUNTY, IOWA and THE CITY OF HARRIS, IOWA, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Osceola County, David A. Lester, Judge.

         The plaintiffs appeal from the district court's ruling granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the threshold issues of timeliness and standing and dismissing the plaintiffs' claims. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

          Aaron W. Ahrendsen and John C. Werden Jr. of Eich, Van Dyke, Werden & Steger, P.C., Carroll, for appellants.

          Stephen G. Kersten of Kersten, Brownlee, Hendricks, L.L.P, Fort Dodge, for appellees.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         The plaintiffs are named resident taxpayers of Osceola County and of the Harris-Lake Park School District. They filed a petition for writ of certiorari and declaratory judgment challenging a resolution and an effectuating ordinance passed by or involving the defendants, Osceola County and the City of Harris. In conjunction, the resolution and ordinance established an urban renewal area and an urban renewal plan and divided the tax revenue levied on that area as tax increment financing (TIF) to fund the plan. The plaintiffs challenged the actions claiming they would be harmed as taxpayers. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and the district court granted it, finding the plaintiff's lacked standing to challenge the resolution and their claims involving the ordinance were untimely. The plaintiffs' petition was dismissed. On appeal, the plaintiffs challenge the district court's ruling and maintain the merits of their motion for summary judgment should have been granted instead.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In general terms, this case is about the actions taken by Osceola County and the City of Harris to fund improvements to Harris's lagoon project, pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 403 (2015).[1] The following facts are undisputed:

         In March 2015, Harris was under an administrative order from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to update its lagoon, but the city did not have the debt capacity to take on the improvements. As a result, on March 10, the city sent a letter to the Osceola County Board of Supervisors "asking for help with possibly doing a TIF on the windmills for infrastructure within the City." Within a couple of weeks, at a meeting of the board, the Harris mayor "asked that the supervisor consider establishing an urban renewal area including the turbines and city of Harris to help fund needed projects."

         In August 2015, an attorney hired by the county sent a letter to the county auditor, indicating, "It is our understanding that the initial focus of our representation will be on establishing an urban renewal area and TIF district and adopting an urban renewal plan (the "Plan") to facilitate the use of tax increment financing."

         At the October 20 board meeting, the board conducted a public hearing on and ultimately adopted Resolution 10-15/16. It stated, in part:

Resolution to declare necessity and establish an urban renewal area pursuant to section 403.4 of the Code of Iowa and approve urban renewal plan and project for Osceola County Urban Renewal Area 7.
. . . .
WHEREAS, a portion of the Property lies within the corporate boundaries of the City of Harris (the "City"), and a joint agreement (the "Joint Agreement") has been executed and delivered by the City in satisfaction of the consent requirement of section 403.17 of the Code of Iowa.
. . . .
WHEREAS, the proposed Plan will authorize initial projects to be undertaken in the Urban Renewal Area entailing the use of tax increment financing to support the undertaking of the economic development and blight alleviation initiatives in the City . . . .

         The adoption of the resolution established the urban renewal area and the urban renewal plan.

         At the same meeting, the board also introduced Ordinance No. 47 for "its initial consideration."[2] The ordinance stated, in part:

An Ordinance Providing for the Division of Taxes Levied on Certain Taxable Property in the Osceola County Urban Renewal Area 7, Pursuant to ...

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