686 N.W.2d 470 (Iowa 2004), 03-1437, Citizens for Responsible Choices v. City of Shenandoah

Docket Nº:03-1437.
Citation:686 N.W.2d 470
Party Name:CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE CHOICES, an Iowa Nonprofit Corporation, Appellant, v. CITY OF SHENANDOAH and City of Clarinda, Appellees.
Case Date:September 01, 2004
Court:Supreme Court of Iowa

Page 470

686 N.W.2d 470 (Iowa 2004)

CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE CHOICES, an Iowa Nonprofit Corporation, Appellant,


CITY OF SHENANDOAH and City of Clarinda, Appellees.

No. 03-1437.

Supreme Court of Iowa

September 1, 2004

Page 471

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 472

Mark McCormick of Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn, a P.C., Des Moines, and Frank Murray Smith of Frank M. Smith Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

Andrew R. Anderson and Chad R. Anderson of Faegre & Benson LLP, Des Moines, and Robert E. Norris, Shenandoah, for appellees.

CARTER, Justice.

Citizens for Responsible Choices (Citizens), a nonprofit corporation whose members object to a public improvement project that includes a recreational lake and public park, appeal from an order granting a motion to dismiss its claims for declaratory relief. The appellees are the City of Shenandoah and the City of Clarinda (the cities).

Citizens maintains that it has a valid claim for declaring the proposed project unlawful on three separate theories: (1) The proposed revenue bond financing of the project is in violation of Iowa Code chapter 384 (2003); (2) the project, as proposed, will be located closer than seventy miles to a border of the state in violation of Iowa Code section 461A.77; and (3) the proposed project is a misuse of a designated agricultural area contrary to Iowa Code section 352.6. The district court sustained the cities' motion to dismiss these claims on both ripeness and standing grounds. After reviewing the record and considering the arguments presented, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

Citizens' amended and substituted petition alleges the following facts. The cities propose to construct two projects: a water treatment plant and distribution system, and a recreational lake and public park. Land owned or rented by members of Citizens will be acquired by eminent domain for purposes of those projects. The cities propose to pay for the projects, including the recreational lake and public park portion thereof, through the issuance of revenue bonds financed by the users of municipal water utilities.

Citizens asserts in its petition that use of revenue bond financing for the recreational lake and public park is not authorized by Iowa Code section 384.80 and following sections in that chapter. That pleading also asserts that, because the proposed water recreational area will be closer than seventy miles to a border of the state, it would violate the provisions of Iowa Code section 461A.77. Finally, it is alleged that Iowa Code section 352.6 precludes the use of their members' lands for nonagricultural purposes because those lands have been declared to be an agricultural area.

I. Alleged Procedural Irregularities.

Before discussing the merits of the district court's ruling, Citizens complains of what it asserts were procedural irregularities therein.

A. Lack of court approval for amendment to petition. The first irregularity that is suggested is the fact that the cities had answered Citizens' original petition

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and filed no motions to assail that pleading. When Citizens thereafter filed and served a motion for leave to amend its petition, the cities filed a document stating "Defendants do not resist Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend." They then moved to dismiss the amended and substituted petition, although no ruling had yet been made by the court allowing the amendment. In fact, there is no such ruling anywhere in the record, and no amended petition was served and filed other than as an exhibit to the motion for leave to amend.

A hearing was held on the motion to dismiss the amended and substituted petition. Citizens made no objection to considering that motion on the ground that the amended petition had not been...

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