Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 24, 2016

IA Supreme Court Upholds Annulment of Writs of Certiorari Challenging City Council’s Decision to Rezone Field of Dreams Site

The Dyersville City Council voted to rezone the area containing the Field of Dreams movie site from A-1 Agricultural to C-2 Commercial in order to facilitate the development of a baseball and softball complex. Community members filed two writs of certiorari, challenging the rezoning. The district court annulled both writs, and appealed the decision. The community members argued that, since the city council acted in a quasi-judicial function, the actions of the city council in passing each of the ordinances were invalid. Additionally, they argued there was sufficient opposition to the rezoning to trigger a unanimous vote of the city council contained in the Dyersville city code.

At the outset, the court found the council was acting in a quasi-judicial manner, since the underlying decision to rezone was a legislative function and the council was therefore not required to make findings of fact or sitting to “determine adjudicative facts to decide the legal rights, privileges or duties of a particular party based on that party’s particular circumstances.” The comprehensive plan stated that a main concern for the city was to “become much more aggressive in guiding and encouraging the city’s growth.” It identified the loss of tourism to the Field of Dreams site as one of the main threats to the city’s growth. Moreover, the court found the decision to rezone the area for the project was not spot zoning, because it was made in consideration of the general health and welfare of the community, and the council had a reasonable basis for its decision to rezone the land despite the surrounding property.

The petitioners next alleged that there was sufficient opposition to the proposed rezoning contained in Ordinance 770 to trigger a unanimous vote under Dyersville Code of Ordinances § 165.39(5). Here, the opposition letter included the signatures of a number of individuals; however, only two of the signatories owned small amounts of property adjacent to the property to be rezoned. The petitioners therefore did not provide a letter that included the requisite twenty percent of adjacent land owners at the time of the meeting, nor did they provide a letter or other document at trial. Accordingly, the court rejected this argument. Lastly, the court found that the use of the 200-foot buffer zone was a reasonable solution to the concerns of the community members and was not arbitrary or capricious.

Residential and Agricultural Advisory Committee v Dyersville City Council, 2016 WL 7175256 (IA 12/9/2016)


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