Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 22, 2021

IA Appeals Court Finds Compliance to Notice Requirements for Rezoning was Met, Despite Notice Not Being Addressed Specifically to Each Individual Property Owner

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq. 

In this case seven property owners, all within 200 feet of a proposed site for a Kwik Star convenience store, challenged the City of LeClaire’s process for rezoning. In their petition for writ of certiorari, the property owners alleged the City failed to send notices to four of the named plaintiffs who were real property owners within 200 feet of the site as required by the city code. The district court dismiss the counts related to the property owners’ position on notice, and the property owners appealed.

Here, it was undisputed the City followed the directives of Iowa Code section 414.4 (2018) by publishing notice as required before the public hearings were held. The property owners, citing the language of the city ordinance, argued that there was no ambiguity in the requirement that notice must be sent by certified mail to all property owners within a 200 foot radius of the property to be rezoned. The record reflected that none of the four property owners asserted they did not know about the public hearing or the rezoning efforts; all four signed the petition objecting to the rezoning that was presented at the public hearing. Moreover, the petition reflected that three of the four were represented by counsel at the public meeting. Thus, in reviewing the ordinance as a whole, the court found that while a notice was not addressed specifically to each individual property owner, the notice was delivered to their household property by certified mail ensured that all property owners had actual notice of the public hearing. Since the objective of the statute had been fulfilled, compliance with the notice requirements was met.

As to the due process claim, the court held that the property owners had failed to preserve error. The court nevertheless rejected this argument because – as discussed in greater detail above – these aggrieved property owners knew of the hearing and had an opportunity to be involved. It further held that if a party, despite the alleged infirmities of the process, received proper notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard under the three-pronged test of Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335 (1976), the claimed illegality does not necessarily give rise to a due process violation.

 Griffith v City of Leclaire, 2021 WL 210966 (IA App. 1/21/2021)

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