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Gustafson v. The Board of Adjustment of Buena Vista County

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

STEVE GUSTAFSON and JANELLE GUSTAFSON, Plaintiff-Appellants,
v.
THE BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT OF BUENA VISTA COUNTY, IOWA and MARK SNYDER, Defendant-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Buena Vista County, Don E. Courtney, Judge.

         Property owners appeal the denial of a writ of certiorari of the decision by the county board of adjustment approving a building permit on a nonconforming lot.

          Gina C. Badding of Neu, Minnich, Comito, Halbur, Neu & Badding, PC, Carroll, for appellant.

          Nicholas J. Brown of Nick Brown, PC, Storm Lake, for appellee Mark Snyder.

          David W. Patton, Buena Vista County Attorney, for appellee Board of Adjustment of Buena Vista County.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Steve and Janelle Gustafson appeal the decision of the Board of Adjustment of Buena Vista County (the Board) to grant a zoning certificate for the construction of a single-family residence on a nonconforming lot and the district court's subsequent dismissal of their petition for writ of certiorari. The Gustafsons claim the district court erred in relying on the Board's decision and in its interpretation of the ordinance, and they claim the lot did not pre-exist the ordinance.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In late November 2015, Mark Snyder purchased a cabin in an unincorporated area of Storm Lake. Buena Vista County has zoned the area as an R-2 residential area. Single-family residential structures are permitted in this R-2 District under Section 6.101 of the zoning ordinance. In March 2016, Snyder and his neighbors each obtained quiet title to a strip of land from the north line of their properties to the water front.

         The cabin and its lot predated applicable zoning ordinances regarding lot sizes and did not meet current zoning requirements for the area.[1] In June 2016, Snyder demolished the cabin intending to move a new dwelling into its place.[2]Between May and October, Snyder submitted and withdrew several applications to the Board for permits and variances, as he worked with the zoning administrator and the Board to plan a building complying with setback and side yard requirements.

         On November 16, 2016, Snyder filed an application for a zoning compliance permit with the Board to build a single-family residence on his nonconforming lot meeting all side yard, setback, and other zoning requirements. The zoning administrator granted the application the same day and issued a zoning compliance permit to Snyder. The Gustafsons, whose home abuts the lot, filed a notice of appeal with the Board. The permit was stayed, and a hearing was held before the Board on December 13. The Gustafsons advanced two legal theories why the permit should not have been granted: (1) under the ordinance no structure can be built on nonconforming lots, and (2) the lot proposed in the permit did not pre-exist the ordinance. After hearing arguments and public comments, questioning the zoning administrator, county attorney, and Snyder, and reviewing the documents provided, the Board deliberated and unanimously upheld the zoning administrator's decision to grant the permit. The meeting and the decision were recorded, and minutes from the meeting were kept and approved.

         On January 13, 2017, the Gustafsons filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the district court against the Board and Snyder alleging the Board acted illegally and arbitrarily in affirming the zoning administrator's decision. The parties agreed to submit the case on the facts in the record, including a transcript of the proceedings and facts from the Board's hearing. The parties submitted additional stipulated facts, exhibits, and written arguments. On September 27, the district court dismissed the petition for writ of certiorari and upheld the Board's decision. The Gustafsons appeal.

         II. ...


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