from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Sean W.
landowner challenges a district court ruling upholding the
city's authority to acquire sewer easements across his
property by eminent domain.
DeVolder of The DeVolder Law Firm, Norwalk, and Wallace L.
Taylor of Law Offices of Wallace L. Taylor, Cedar Rapids, for
Stephanie L. Hinz and Matthew G. Novak of Pickens, Barnes
& Abernathy, Cedar Rapids, for appellees.
by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, J J.
landowner challenges the authority of the city of North
Liberty to take a sanitary sewer easement over his property
by eminent domain. Because the landowner accepted "just
compensation" for the taking and the sewer line is
completed, we dismiss his appeal as moot.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
Weinman bought seventy acres of land in Johnson County in
1981. The property is mostly timber but includes about twelve
tillable acres. Weinman's house and horse corral are
centered on the acreage. Muddy Creek runs through the
northeast corner of his land. Across the creek from his house
lies a five-acre field that Weinman restored to natural
prairie over the past three decades. The city of North
Liberty's waste water treatment plant sits about
one-hundred yards from the northern border of Weinman's
fall of 2010, the Iowa City Community School District started
an informal search for a site to construct a new high school.
In August 2013, the school board approved purchasing property
east of North Liberty. The city sought help from Fox Engineering
to assess how best to provide sanitary sewer services to the
new high school. After Fox's extensive review, the
engineers recommended the city construct a new trunk sewer
line that required a temporary and permanent easement across
2014, the city sent Weinman a letter notifying him it
proposed to run a sewer line through his property to serve
the new high school. In early November 2014, the city served
Weinman with notice of intent, advising if he did not agree
to the easement, the city would proceed with condemnation.
Later that month, concerned about the disruption to his
prairie restoration, Weinman filed a petition seeking a
declaratory judgment to enjoin what he contended was an
illegal condemnation of his property by the
January 8, 2015, the city served Weinman with a notice of
condemnation for a thirty-foot-wide sanitary sewer easement
and a temporary construction easement across the northeast
corner of his property "for the public purposes of
extending sewer service to newly annexed territory and a
proposed public high school building." Less than two
weeks later, Weinman filed a second petition challenging the
city's eminent domain authority under Iowa Code section
6A.24 and again seeking a temporary injunction. After a hearing
in early February, the district court refused Weinman's
requests for injunctive relief. Weinman did not file a motion
under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2). Nor did he seek
an interlocutory appeal and stay of the court's refusal
to restrain construction until the court held a hearing and
reached a final decision on the merits of his challenge to
the city's eminent domain authority.
the separate but related condemnation-compensation process
moved forward. In mid-February, the county compensation
commission held a hearing in the city's condemnation
action and awarded Weinman $70, 000 for the permanent sewer
easement across his property. Contending the award was
excessive (specifically, three times the appraised value of
the easement), the city appealed to the district court.
Weinman requested a jury trial, and the jury awarded him $25,
2015, the district court granted Weinman's motion to
consolidate his two petitions challenging the city's
eminent domain authority and set a trial for one year in the
future. Meanwhile, in the summer of 2015, the city completed
the sewer project. In light of the project's completion,
in February 2016, Weinman filed an amended and substituted
petition alleging he suffered damages when the city "cut
down trees on the property and destroyed a portion of the
natural prairie." He asked for a monetary award to
compensate him for those damages. In early May 2016, the
district court heard evidence in Weinman's consolidated
lawsuit. Weinman asked the ...