Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

LLC v. City of Ames

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 10, 2018

AMES 2304, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF AMES, ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Michael J. Moon, Judge.

         Ames 2304, LLC appeals the district court order annulling its writ of certiorari.

          Debra Hulett of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Eric M. Updegraff, Brent L. Hinders, and Hugh J. Cain of Hopkins & Huebner, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         The Ames Zoning Board of Adjustment (Board) denied an application by Ames 2304, LLC for a permit to remodel the interior of its apartment building that would increase the number of bedrooms in the building but not the number of dwelling units. The Board denied the application, determining the proposed remodel was prohibited under the zoning ordinance because the project would increase the intensity of a nonconforming use. It reasoned that the addition of bedrooms and concomitant addition of required off-street parking would intensify the nonconforming use. Ames 2304 petitioned the district court for a writ of certiorari. The district court annulled the writ, and Ames 2304 appeals.

         On appeal, Ames 2304 alleges the Board acted illegally in denying its application for a permit. In the context of the facts presented, we interpret the ordinance to tie "increase in intensity" to an increase in number of dwelling units, and not to an increase in number of bedrooms, occupants, or required off-street parking. We conclude that because the proposed remodeling project does not increase the number of dwelling units, it does not violate the ordinance's prohibition against increases in intensity of a nonconforming use. The Board's interpretation of the ordinance on this issue is erroneous and denial of the permit on that basis illegal. We therefore reverse the judgment of the district court. We remand to the district court for an order sustaining the writ of certiorari.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Ames 2304 owns the property at 2304 Knapp Street in Ames. The property is currently zoned as "Low Density Residential," which only permits one single-family residential dwelling per lot. The structure standing on the lot was built in 1910 as a single-family structure. It was converted into an apartment building consisting of four one-bedroom apartments in 1928. Because the property was converted before the current zoning ordinance went into effect, it is allowed to continue as a legal nonconforming use.

         In 2016, Ames 2304 applied for a permit to remodel the property's interior. The remodel would change the four one-bedroom units into two studio units, one two-bedroom unit, and one three-bedroom unit. A zoning enforcement officer denied the permit after determining that the increase in the number of bedrooms to the building and increase in required off-street parking would increase the intensity of the nonconforming use, which the officer concluded was not permitted under the zoning ordinance. Ames 2304 appealed the decision to the Board. After a hearing, the Board affirmed the decision of the zoning enforcement officer.

         Ames 2304 filed an action for writ of certiorari in district court. The district court determined the Board correctly interpreted the zoning ordinance section pertaining to nonconforming uses, correctly determined that the increase in number of bedrooms constituted an increase in the intensity of the nonconformance, and correctly interpreted the provisions of the parking space ordinance as evidencing an increase in intensity of the nonconforming use. The court annulled the writ, and Ames 2304 appeals.

         II. Scope of Review.

         We review the district court's judgment in a certiorari action for correction of errors at law. See State v. Iowa Dist. Ct. ex rel. Story Cty., 843 N.W.2d 76, 79-80 (Iowa 2014). We are bound by the findings of the trial court if supported by substantial evidence in the record. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; Nash Finch Co. v. City Council of City of Cedar Rapids, 672 N.W.2d 822, 825 (Iowa 2003). However, we are not bound by erroneous legal rulings that materially affect the court's decision. See Chrischilles v. Arnolds Park Zoning Bd. of Adjustment, 505 N.W.2d 491, 493 (Iowa 1993).

         III. Discussion.

         A certiorari action is a procedure to test whether an inferior board, tribunal, or court exceeded proper jurisdiction or otherwise acted illegally. See Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.1401. An illegality exists when an inferior tribunal has failed to apply the law properly or when its factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence. See Denison Mun. Utils. v. Iowa Workers' Comp. Comm'r, 857 N.W.2d 230, 234 (Iowa 2014). Ames 2304 bears the burden of proving the illegality. See City of Grimes v. Polk Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 495 N.W.2d 751, 752 (Iowa 1993).

         The question before the Board and the district court involved an interpretation of the zoning ordinance. "Although we give deference to the board of adjustment's interpretation of its city's zoning ordinances, final construction and interpretation of zoning ordinances is a question of law for us to decide." Lauridsen v. City of Okoboji Bd. of Adjustment, 554 N.W.2d 541, 543 (Iowa 1996).

         Ames 2304 contends the Board acted illegally in denying it a permit for its proposed remodeling plan by incorrectly applying the zoning ordinance's prohibition against intensification of nonconforming uses. It also contends substantial evidence does not support the Board's finding that the plan would increase the intensity of the nonconforming use.

         A. Ordinance.

         The property in question is a nonconforming use.

A nonconforming use is one "that lawfully existed prior to the time a zoning ordinance was enacted or changed, and continues after the enactment of the ordinance even though the use fails to comply with the restrictions of the ordinance." City of Okoboji v. Okoboji Barz, Inc., 746 N.W.2d 56, 60 (Iowa 2008). This lawfully existing prior use of the property creates a vested right in the continuation of the nonconforming use once the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.