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Sycamore, L.L.C. v. City Council of Iowa City

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

SYCAMORE, L.L.C. and LAKE CALVIN PROPERTIES, L.L.C., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CITY COUNCIL OF IOWA CITY, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Kevin McKeever, Judge.

         The owners of property appeal from the district court ruling annulling their writ of certiorari challenging the legality of the decision denying their application to have their property rezoned. AFFIRMED.

          Adam S. Tarr of Pugh Hagan Prahm PLC, Coralville, for appellants.

          Elizabeth J. Craig (until withdrawal) and Sara Greenwood Hektoen, Iowa City, for appellee.

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

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Sycamore, L.L.C. and Lake Calvin Properties, L.L.C. appeal the district court's ruling annulling their writ of certiorari challenging the City Council of Iowa City's denial of their application to rezone 42.01 acres of property. On appeal, the landowners maintain the district court erred in concluding (1) the City Council did not incorrectly apply the law in denying their application for rezoning and (2) the Council's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The 42.01 acres at issue here were annexed by the City of Iowa City in 1994 as part of the 422-acre tract of land owned by Sycamore Farms Company. The parcel of land lies in what Iowa City has categorized as the South District.[1] Before the annexation, Iowa City and Sycamore Farms entered into a Conditional Zoning Agreement (CZA). The CZA states, in part,

[Sycamore Farms] has requested the City to annex and rezone approximately 422 acres of land located south of Highway 6, east of Sycamore Street and west of Sioux Avenue . . . from the County designation of RS, Suburban Residential and R3A, Multi-Family Residential, to RS-8, Medium Density Single-Family Residential, RFBH, Factory Built Housing Residential, RM-12, Low Density Multi-Family Residential, RM-20, Medium Density Multi-Family Residential, RR-1, Rural Residential, and ID-RM, Interim Development Residential Multi-Family.
. . . .
4. In consideration of the City's rezoning the subject property from County RS and R3A, Owner agrees that development and use of the subject property will conform to the requirements of the applicable zones: RS-8, Medium Density, Single-Family Residential, RFBH, Factory Built Housing Residential, RM-12, Low Density Multi-Family Residential, RM-20, Medium Density Multi-Family Residential, RR-1, Rural Residential; and ID-RM, Interim Development Residential Multi-Family.

         Additionally, Sycamore Farms agreed "the development and use of the subject property will conform to" additional conditions, including taking steps to protect certain natural features of the land, creating a conservation easement with part of the land, giving the City fifteen acres to create a public school, and more. As part of the CZA, Sycamore Farms was also required to "acknowledge[] that the conditions contained herein are reasonable conditions to impose on the land under Iowa Code § 414.5 (1993), and that said conditions satisfy public needs which are directly caused by the requested zoning change."

         In September 2015, the current landowners, Sycamore, L.L.C. and Lake Calvin Properties, L.L.C., [2] submitted a rezoning application to the City Council, asking for the parcel to be rezoned from ID-RM (interim development, multifamily residential) and RR-A (low-density rural) to RM-20 (medium density multi-family residential). The requested rezoning would allow for the development of 675 three-bedroom or 1000 one- and two-bedroom apartments to be built. In the application, the landowners claimed that the 1994 annexation of the land by Iowa City "was the subject of lengthy negotiations" where the City and landowners "were able to reach a mutual agreement regarding the properties' annexation as well as their future development." The landowners maintained the requirements outlined in paragraph 4 of the CZA were "a series of ...


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