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Lindflott v. Drainage District No. 23, Worth County

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 8, 2017

DEAN R. LINDFLOTT, SHIRLEY M. LINDFLOTT, RICHARD A. LINDFLOTT, and ROBERT D. LINDFLOTT, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
DRAINAGE DISTRICT NO. 23, WORTH COUNTY, IOWA, and WORTH COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Worth County, Christopher C. Foy, Judge.

         Landowners appeal the district court decision affirming annexation of their land into a drainage district.

          James L. Pray and Benjamin R. Merrill of Brown, Winick, Graves, Gross, Baskerville, & Schoenebaum, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellants.

          Robert W. Goodwin of Goodwin Law Office, P.C., Ames, for appellee.

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

          BOWER, Judge.

         The Lindflotts appeal the district court's decision affirming annexation of their land into a drainage district. We find the Lindflott land receives a material benefit from the drainage district, and accordingly the annexation of the land was proper. We affirm the district court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Drainage District Number 23, Worth County, Iowa (District 23), was created in 1916 and drains roughly 7800 acres. The portion of the Lindflotts' property at issue was not included in any drainage district, although it does border five different districts. A meandering natural stream (the Stream) flowed north to south through the Lindflotts' property, entering the property through Drainage District Number 7 (District 7) and discharging into District 23. In 1916, a plan was prepared for straightening and excavating 6.8 miles of the Stream to increase drainage, and work was completed on a 5.2 mile section. In the 1950's the work was continued by private landowners and the excavation ended near the south edge of the Lindflott property. In 1957, District 7 excavated and straightened the Stream north of the Lindflott property, increasing the flow of water into the unimproved portion of the Stream on the Lindflott property.

         The Lindflotts bought the property at issue in 1974. In 1975, they had the portion of the Stream on their land straightened and deepened to enable row crops to be more efficiently planted. The Stream now entered the Lindflott property from District 7, flowed as a straight, open ditch through the property instead of as a shallow meandering stream, and exited into District 23. The portion of the Stream on the Lindflott property matched the depth of the excavated ditch of District 23

         In October 2013, Dean Lindflott petitioned the Worth County Board of Supervisors (Board) for repairs to a ditch near his property in Worth County, Iowa. There was some confusion as to exactly which ditch was to be repaired. Dean claims he intended to have a ditch beginning on the western edge of the property, an area covered by Drainage District Number 8 (District 8), cleaned, but a clerk in the auditor's office erroneously identified the district as District 23 instead. The Board appointed Bolton & Menk, Inc., an engineering firm, to investigate the proposed repairs. The investigation was completed and a report presented to the Board on May 9, 2014, with an amendment filed May 28. During the survey, the engineer was unaware the Lindflott property was not in any drainage district. Only after filing the report was the error discovered and the amendment filed describing the benefits imparted to the Lindflott land. The amended report recommended annexing the Lindflotts' property between District 8 and District 23. The Lindflotts resisted the annexation claiming, in part, their land received no material benefit from the drainage district.

         The Board approved the motion to annex the Lindflotts' property. The Lindflotts appealed to the district court. A trial was held and the district court affirmed the annexation on August 22, 2016. The Lindflotts now appeal.

         II. Standard of Review

         Cases tried in equity are reviewed de novo. Commercial Sav. Bank v. Hawkeye Fed. Sav. Bank, 592 N.W.2d 321, 326 (Iowa 1999). The district court reviews the Board's decision in equity, in an appellate capacity, and therefore, the district court's review was also de novo. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. We give weight to the ...


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