THE CARROLL AIRPORT COMMISSION (OPERATING THE ARTHUR N. NEU MUNICIPAL AIRPORT), Plaintiff-Appellee,
LOREN W. DANNER and PAN DANNER, Defendants-Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Carroll County, William C.
appellant landowners appeal from the district court ruling
granting the local airport commission's petition for
abatement of a nuisance, requiring the landowners to cease
operation of and remove an improvement on their land.
D. Hamilton of Hamilton Law Firm, PC, Storm Lake, for
C. Badding of Neu, Minnich, Comito, Halbur, Neu &
Badding, PC, Carroll, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.
defendants, Loren and Pan Danner, appeal from the district
court ruling granting the Carroll Airport Commission's
petition for abatement of a nuisance. The court determined
the grain leg built by the Danners on their property, near
the Arthur E. Neu Airport, was a nuisance, as it violated
local and state zoning ordinances and statutes. The court
ordered the Danners to "abate said nuisance by either
removing the grain leg structure or modifying the height of
the grain leg structure to be in compliance with the
regulations and law concerning the Airport's protect[ed]
airspace." On appeal, the Danners contend the "no
hazard" letter they obtained from the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) in July 2013 preempted the district
court's enforcement of state law.
Standard of Review.
parties dispute the scope of our review. The Danners maintain
the petition was filed in equity and, as such, our review is
de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. The commission
asserts our review is for correction of errors at law because
while the petition was filed in equity, the case was tried at
law since the trial court ruled on objections as they were
made at trial. Ruling on objections at the time they are made
in the course of trial has often been a determinative factor
in deciding the case should be reviewed at law even though
the case could have or perhaps even should have been tried in
equity. See Passehl Estate v. Passehl, 712 N.W.2d
408, 414 (Iowa 2006). However, while it is a determinative
factor, it is not dispositive as to how the case was tried at
the district court level. Id.
we need not decide how the case was tried to the district
court because the only question before us is a legal
question, which we review for correction of errors at law.
See S.S. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 528 N.W.2d 130, 132
(Iowa 1995) (stating that when an issue "is a purely
legal question, . . . our review is at law").
undisputed the Danners built a grain leg within the
protected zone of the airport. After the Danners built the grain
leg in June 2013, the commission contacted the FAA and asked
it to perform an aeronautical study of the new structure and
its impact on flying near the airport. The FAA did so and
then issued a letter, stating in part, "This
aeronautical study revealed that the structure does exceed
obstruction standards but would not be a hazard to air
navigation provided the following condition(s)" are met.
As conditions, the FAA instructed the Danners to paint the
structure and add red lights to the top of it; the Danners
complied. Additionally, the FAA increased the minimum descent
altitude for the airport by 100 feet, meaning pilots had to
approach the airport at a higher altitude.
of its position and height within the protected zone, the
grain leg constitutes an "airport hazard" pursuant
to Iowa Code section 329.1(2) (2015) and local
An "airport hazard" is
any structure or tree or use of land which would exceed the
federal obstruction standards as contained in 14 C.F.R.
§ 77.21, 77.23 and 77.25 . . . which obstruct the air
space required for the flight of aircraft and landing or
take-off at an airport or is ...