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Luckstead v. Iowa Department of Transportation

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 1, 2019

JON D. LUCKSTEAD, Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica Zrinyi Wittig, Judge.

         A property owner appeals the district court judgment on the compensability of access and the appraisement of damages. AFFIRMED.

          E. Kelly Keady of Biersdorf & Associates, P.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Les V. Reddick and Todd L. Stevenson of Kane, Norby & Reddick, P.C., Dubuque, for appellee.

          Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Jon Luckstead appeals the district court judgment finding no compensable taking occurred due to the Iowa Department of Transportation's (DOT) relocation of the access point to Luckstead's property and finding as proper the compensation awarded by the Dubuque County Compensation Commission for two parcels of land. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         In 1972, Luckstead purchased property just south of Dubuque, where he developed the Tamarack Business Park. The business park, zoned for light industrial use, is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 151/61. The property is only ten to twenty percent developed. Luckstead owns lots in the business park and surrounding land that is used for farming. A frontage road running parallel to the highway along the length of the park has direct access to both northbound and southbound traffic on the highway via Tamarack Drive. The at-grade access was a result of a revocable license granted to a predecessor owner by the Iowa State Highway Commission (ISHC). As part of the license, the ISHC reserved the right "to remove or relocate the special public road connection."[1]

         In the early 2000s, the DOT began to plan and acquire land to build a southwest arterial road, which would provide an alternate, controlled-access route along the south side of Dubuque from U.S. Highway 20 to Highway 151/61. The project also upgrades Highway 151/61 between the southwest arterial road and the interchange of Highways 151 and 61 to a primary highway with controlled access; permanent access will only be allowed at interchange locations, eliminating the at-grade access points.[2] The interchange between the arterial road and Highway 151/61 will be directly north of Luckstead's property. The current frontage road will be extended north to provide access via the southwest arterial road at the highway interchange, and the current at-grade access point for the business park from Highway 151/61 will be condemned. The design plans, finalized in 2009, incorporated changes suggested by Luckstead, shifting the designed frontage road connection location and the road's alignment to lessen impact on Luckstead's property.[3]

         In 2015, pursuant to Iowa Code "Chapters 28E, 306, 306A, 306B, 306C, 313, 6a, and 6B [(2015)]," the DOT acted to condemn the access point and acquire title to land for purposes of relocating the Tamarack Business Park's access via an extension of the existing frontage road to the planned arterial interchange. The acquired land was part of two adjacent parcels owned by Luckstead-Parcel 184 and Parcel 187. The Parcel 184 acquisition included fee title to just over four-tenths of an acre and a temporary easement to almost three-quarters of an acre. A "remnant" half acre that contains the Tamarack Business Park sign remains between the frontage road extension and the highway.[4]

         The Parcel 187-acquired land currently is used primarily as farmland and holds three billboards, a barn, and a garage near the highway. The Parcel 187 acquisition included fee title to six and one-third acres and a temporary construction easement to two-tenths of an acre. The land acquired runs through the middle of the parcel, leaving six and three-fourths acres between the frontage road and the highway and one and two-thirds acres on the west side of the frontage road. The billboards, barn, and garage remain undisturbed. The frontage road will provide access to both sides of Parcel 187 and connects to the existing frontage road in Parcel 184.

         Pursuant to statute, a compensation commission was convened to appraise the damages from the condemnation; the commission consisted of two real estate sales persons or brokers, two agricultural owner-operators, and two persons with knowledge of county property values by virtue of their occupation. See Iowa Code § 6B.4(2). The compensation commission valued the damages from the takings based on a 2013 appraisal by Fred Lock of Iowa Appraisal and Research. Due to the age of the appraisal, the compensation commission then increased the amount offered to $45, 000 for Parcel 184 and $217, 954 for Parcel 187, for a total compensation of $262, 954. Luckstead appealed both appraisals to the district court, claiming $90, 000 in damages for Parcel 184 and $500, 000 for Parcel 187. The DOT hired appraisers Lock and Brian Linnemeyer of Agroval to evaluate the value lost, and both estimated the 2015 lost value at $38, 860 for Parcel 184 and $224, 364 for Parcel 187, for a total of $263, 224. The DOT appraisals valued the land as agricultural-its use at the time of the taking.

         Luckstead hired appraiser David Reach of The Valuation Group to evaluate the property, and he valued the damages at $35, 300 and $288, 300 respectively, for a total of $323, 600. Reach's valuation appraised the land as industrial development, which the land was also zoned for. Reach also calculated damages related to the change in access point, estimating $319, 700 for Parcel 184 and $168, 600 for Parcel 187. Reach estimated an additional $618, 600 in access damages for the three tenants and two vacant lots within Parcel 184 not otherwise ...

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