Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 20, 2012

Iowa Court of Appeals Upholds Denial Agricultural Exceptions for Two Parcels Based Upon the “Agricultural Purposes” Clause of the Iowa Code

Property owners Daryl and Arlene Lang appealed the district court’s ruling annulling of writs of certiorari after being denied by the Linn County Board of Adjustment agriculture exceptions for zoning. The district court determined the Board was correct in denying agricultural exceptions for a house and 6.52-acre parcel and a second house and 35-acre parcel, both owned by the Langs with the latter being occupied by tenants, because the use of the property did not meet the definition of “agricultural purposes” under the Iowa Code section 335.2.

The Langs argue that their activities on the 6.52-acre parcel of growing trees, berries, asparagus, grapes, apples and farm fish as well as participating in government farm programs qualify as “agricultural purposes.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s holding that the Langs failed to demonstrate to the Board that their activities were sufficient to prove they were using the 6.52-acre parcel for agricultural purposes as required under the Iowa Code. In Thompson v. Hancock Cnty., the Iowa Supreme Court defined agriculture as “the art or science or cultivating the ground, including harvesting of crops and rearing and management of livestock. The Court here reasoned that the Langs did not demonstrate that they cultivated the ground, harvested crops or reared and managed livestock to an extent warranting an agricultural exemption.

Regarding the second, 35-acre parcel of land, the district court upheld the Board’s determination that the proposed tenants would not be “primarily engaged in agriculture,” therefore did not qualify the exemption. The duties of the prior tenant included casing trees, fence repair, planting seeds, watering crops, monitoring fish production, and taking care of sheep totaling 1610 hours over a twenty-one month period. Based upon the review of the work logs on the land, the Board determined that the duties and time devoted to the performance of the duties does not qualify as being “primarily engaged in agriculture”

Lang v. Linn County Board of Adjustment, 2012 WL 1438986 (IA Ct of Ap. 4/25/2012)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.iowacourtsonline.org/court_of_appeals/Recent_Opinions/20120425/2-093.pdf


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