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Goplerud v. Dallas County

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 19, 2019

JOHN BARTON GOPLERUD, LESLIE CLEMENSON, LYLE HALE, and DOROTHY HALE, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
DALLAS COUNTY, IOWA, DALLAS COUNTY BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT, and NAPA VALLEY OWNERS ASSOCIATION, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Dustria A. Relph, Judge.

         Plaintiffs appeal the district court decision dismissing their petition for writ of certiorari challenging the decision of the Dallas County Board of Adjustment finding they were in violation of zoning ordinances and their claim against the Napa Valley Owners Association for tortious interference with their property rights.

          J. Barton Goplerud of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, PC, West Des Moines, and Leslie Clemenson of Clemenson Law Firm, PLC, Adel, for appellants.

          Hugh J. Cain, Brent L. Hinders, and Eric M. Updegraff of Hopkins & Huebner, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees Dallas County, Iowa and Dallas County Board of Adjustment.

          Joseph F. Moser and Robert L. Johnson of Finley Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee Napa Valley Owners Association.

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

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs appeal the district court decision dismissing their petition for writ of certiorari challenging the decision of the Dallas County Board of Adjustment (Board) finding they were in violation of zoning ordinances and their claim against the Napa Valley Owners Association (NVOA) for tortious interference with their property rights. We determine the district court erred by dismissing the petition for writ of certiorari based on its finding plaintiffs had not shown they were aggrieved by the Board's decision. We reverse on this issue and remand for further proceedings. We conclude the district court did not err in granting the motion to dismiss filed by the NVOA for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and affirm the court's ruling on this issue.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         John Goplerud and Leslie Clemenson (Gopleruds) own a house in the Napa Valley Estates housing division in Dallas County, Iowa. On May 20, 2014, the Gopleruds filed an application with the Dallas County Department of Planning and Development (Department) for a building permit for a combined carriage house and garage on their property. The Department issued a building permit. During the construction process they obtained subcontractor permits and passed building inspections as required by the Department. A Certificate of Zoning Compliance and Occupancy Permit was issued by the Department on February 13, 2015. Clemenson's parents, Lyle and Dotti Hale, moved into the carriage house.[1]

         The Gopleruds were subsequently sued by the NVOA, who claimed the occupied carriage house did not meet the restrictive covenants of the homeowners association.[2] While the suit was pending, the NVOA contacted the Department, stating the NVOA believed the Gopleruds were in violation of Dallas County zoning ordinances, as two single-family residences on one lot were not permitted in the R-2 Zoning District where the house was located.

         The Department issued a notice of violation to the Gopleruds on January 10, 2017, which stated they were in violation of Dallas County ordinances and the violation must be abated by March 10, 2017. The notice stated:

Failure to correct/abate the violation within the above time frame will result in further action by the county, including prosecution as a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine or imprisonment, or the issuance of a civil citation and assessment of a fine. Each day that you are determined to be in violation constitutes a separate offence.

In order to abate the violation, the Gopleruds were informed they needed to (1) cease and desist using the building as a residence, (2) modify the building to comply with the occupancy permit, and (3) use the building in compliance with zoning regulations.

         The Gopleruds appealed the Notice of Violation to the Board. After a hearing, the Board issued a decision on June 20, 2017, finding:

Based on the evidence presented at the public hearing, the Board finds that the accessory building that Goplerud/Clemenson built is clearly a single family dwelling that does not meet the definition of an accessory building because more than 51% of the total square footage of the building is for residential use and not storage, and because the evidence shows that the building is used as the primary residence for the parents of Clemenson, in violation of the ordinance.

         The Board upheld the Notice of Violation.

         The Gopleruds and Hales (plaintiffs) filed a petition for writ of certiorari, request for a stay or restraining order, and request for declaratory relief against Dallas County, the Board, and the NVOA. They stated the Board improperly considered ex parte evidence, violated the Iowa Open Meetings Law, and the proceedings constituted an untimely appeal of the building permit. The plaintiffs also claimed the Board's decision was not supported by the evidence, was arbitrary and capricious, and was an appropriation of the Gopleruds' property without due process of law. The petition claimed the NVOA engaged in tortious interference with the Gopleruds' use of their property by contacting the Department on several occasions, requesting a decision finding the Gopleruds were in violation of Dallas County ordinances. Additionally, the plaintiffs requested a stay or restraining order preventing the Board from attempting to seek criminal or civil penalties as set out in the Notice of Violation.

         Dallas County filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss, claiming the Board's decision was not a final decision on the issue of whether the Gopleruds violated Dallas County ordinances. It pointed out the alleged infractions had not been submitted to a court and the Gopleruds had not yet been subjected to any sanctions. Dallas County claimed the Notice of Violation was in the nature of a warning. The NVOA joined in the pre-answer motion to dismiss. After a hearing, the district court denied the pre-answer motions to dismiss, finding, "[T]he Petitioners are aggrieved by the Board of Adjustment's decision to agree with the Department's decision to issue a Notice ...


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