Perkins v. MADISON COUNTY LIVESTOCK & FAIR, No. 98-939.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtTERNUS, Justice.
Citation613 N.W.2d 264
PartiesDebra L. PERKINS, Richard L. Wise, Linda R. Wise, Donald Haines, Paul R. Blythe, and Lori R. Blythe, Appellees, v. MADISON COUNTY LIVESTOCK & FAIR ASSOCIATION, Appellant.
Decision Date06 July 2000
Docket NumberNo. 98-939.

613 N.W.2d 264

Debra L. PERKINS, Richard L. Wise, Linda R. Wise, Donald Haines, Paul R. Blythe, and Lori R. Blythe, Appellees,
v.
MADISON COUNTY LIVESTOCK & FAIR ASSOCIATION, Appellant

No. 98-939.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

July 6, 2000.


613 N.W.2d 266
James L. Sayre of James L. Sayre, P.C., Des Moines, and Thomas G. Crabb, Des Moines, for appellant

G. Stephen Walters of Jordan, Oliver & Walters, P.C., Winterset, for appellees.

Considered en banc.

TERNUS, Justice.

The appellees, Debra Perkins, Richard Wise, Linda Wise, Donald Haines, Paul Blythe and Lori Blythe, own property near the fairgrounds in Madison County. The appellant, Madison County Livestock and Fair Association ("the Association"), owns and manages the fairgrounds property. In 1996, the Association constructed a racetrack at the fairgrounds and began holding figure-eight races there. The appellees, whom we shall refer to collectively as the plaintiffs, brought this suit seeking to have the racetrack removed or to permanently enjoin figure-eight racing at the fairgrounds. The district court held that the races were not a nuisance, but concluded that the Association had violated the Madison County Zoning Ordinance by not obtaining the necessary permit and variance

613 N.W.2d 267
for construction of the racetrack. Accordingly, the court denied an award of damages to the plaintiffs, but enjoined the Association from holding figure-eight races at the fairgrounds until it had obtained a special use permit and variance from the local zoning board

The Association appealed the trial court's issuance of an injunction. The plaintiffs filed a cross-appeal, contending that the court erred in holding that the races did not constitute a nuisance. On our de novo review, we agree with the district court that the Association violated the county zoning ordinance when it constructed the racetrack in violation of the requirements of that ordinance. We also find, however, that the figure-eight races constitute a nuisance as to plaintiff Perkins, whose home lies in closest proximity to the track. We agree with the district court that the races are not a nuisance as to the other plaintiffs.

In view of our findings and conclusions, we affirm the trial court's judgment insofar as it enjoins the Association from holding any figure-eight races until it has obtained the necessary permits and variances and has otherwise complied with the county zoning ordinance. We also affirm the trial court's dismissal of the nuisance claims of plaintiffs Wise, Haines, and Blythe. We reverse the trial court's dismissal of plaintiff Perkins' nuisance claim and remand for a determination of the appropriate remedy.

I. Scope of Review.

This case was brought and tried as an equity action. Therefore, on appeal, this court will review the case de novo. See Iowa R.App. P. 4 ("Review in equity cases shall be de novo."); Weinhold v. Wolff, 555 N.W.2d 454, 458 (Iowa 1996). We give weight to the district court's findings of fact, but we are not bound by these findings. See Weinhold, 555 N.W.2d at 458. "[W]e are especially deferential to the district court's assessment of witness credibility." Id.

II. Factual and Procedural Background.

The Madison County fairgrounds are located just outside the city limits of Winter-set. The fairgrounds were established in 1948 and occupy thirty-two acres of land. At all times, the fairgrounds have been under the control of the Madison County Livestock and Fair Association, an agricultural society formed pursuant to Iowa Code chapters 174 and 504A (1995).1

A. Zoning requests and construction of track. Prior to the events giving rise to the present lawsuit, the fairgrounds had an arena that was used primarily for rodeo events. In addition, at times between 1962 and 1993, the arena had been the site for various motorized events, including tractor pulling contests, demolition derbies, an auto thrill show, pickup pulls, garden tractor pulls, three and four wheeler races, and motorcycle moto-cross races. Most of these events took place during the week of the county fair.

In 1993, the Association filed an application with the Madison County Zoning Board of Adjustment requesting a special use permit and variance to allow the Association to construct a multi-purpose track and arena on the fairgrounds property. The proposed new track and arena would expand the old arena to a quarter-mile track for stock car racing.

The portion of the fairgrounds on which the proposed racetrack was to be located was zoned agricultural, a designation that did not allow a racetrack as a permitted use. Go-cart tracks were, however, permitted as a special use in an agricultural

613 N.W.2d 268
district, subject to certain requirements. Of particular importance to this case, the ordinance required a 200-foot setback from any property line and a 600-foot setback from existing dwellings. It also required that any track have an asphalt or oiled surface. The Association requested a variance that would permit it (1) to build the track 100 feet from the back property line and 245 feet from an existing dwelling, and (2) to build a dirt track that would not be treated with oil or paved

The zoning board voted to grant a special use permit to allow construction of the proposed racetrack, but denied a variance from the special requirements imposed by the ordinance until the Association provided additional information. The Association then filed an amended request for a special use permit and a variance, stating that it was not possible to comply with the setback requirements. The request also stated that an oiled or asphalt surface on the track would not permit the multiple uses envisioned by the Association. The board held a public hearing at which the plaintiffs appeared and voiced their strong opposition to the proposed racetrack. The zoning board again declined to allow any variance from the requirements of the zoning ordinance. The Association then asked that its request for a special use permit and variance be "continued"; the board granted the requested continuance.

Despite its lack of success before the zoning board, the Association, claiming that it was not subject to the county zoning ordinances, proceeded to construct a new arena and track for the purpose of conducting figure-eight auto races. The new racetrack, completed in 1996, expanded the arena 91 feet further south, 105 feet further east, and 62 feet further north than the old arena. What was a flat arena became an oval track with banked sides. Spectator seating, lighting and the announcer's booth were also updated and enlarged. The track is within 243 feet of the Perkins residence and it has never been treated with oil or paved with asphalt to reduce dust.

B. Commencement of racing. The Association began holding figure-eight racing in 1996 at the new track. Two events were held that year, both at night: one during the county fair and one in September. During 1997, seven figure-eight races were held: two during fair week and the rest between April and September. The races normally began at 6:30 p.m. and lasted until 11:00 p.m., although the racers themselves started to arrive at 3:00 p.m. and were not all gone until midnight. Attendance ranged from 750 to 1500 people. The Association does not dispute that "on a day when the races are held, the activity before, during and after the races generates noise, principally the roar of engines, some dust and exhaust fumes."

C. This lawsuit. The plaintiffs are property owners who reside adjacent to or in relatively close proximity to the fairgrounds. They brought this action claiming that the Association violated the Madison County Zoning Ordinance in constructing the racetrack, and created a nuisance by conducting figure-eight races. The plaintiffs asked the court to issue a mandatory injunction requiring the Association to remove the racetrack, enter a permanent injunction prohibiting figure-eight races at the track, and award a judgment for damages and costs. The Association, in response, contended that the county zoning ordinance did not apply, that the Association had priority of use, that the plaintiffs had notice of the use, and that the granting of an injunction would be contrary to public policy.

The case proceeded to a bench trial, which included an extensive stipulation of facts by the parties. The trial court ruled that the county zoning ordinance applied to the Association, and that the ordinance did not allow a racetrack in an agricultural district. The court found that the Association had not obtained any special permit or variance that would allow construction of the track or the sponsoring of auto races.

613 N.W.2d 269
The court rejected the Association's argument that the racetrack constituted the continuation of a prior nonconforming use.

The trial court also considered whether the Association's use of the racetrack qualified as a nuisance, considering (1) priority of location, (2) the nature of the neighborhood, and (3) the wrong complained of. The court held that the first two factors weighed in favor of the plaintiffs. The court concluded, however, that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that the wrong of which they complained was unreasonable. More specifically, the trial court held that the racetrack's interference with the plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their property was not sufficiently continuous to qualify as a nuisance.

The court entered its judgment, enjoining the Association from conducting any figure-eight races until it had complied with the zoning ordinance, and denying any damages to the plaintiffs. The case is now before this court on the Association's appeal and the plaintiffs' cross-appeal.

III. Issues on Appeal.

The Association raises two issues in its appeal: (1) does the county zoning ordinance apply to the fairgrounds; and (2) did the Association violate the zoning ordinance? The errors claimed by the plaintiffs in their...

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37 practice notes
  • Freeman v. Grain Processing Corp., No. 13–0723.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 13, 2014
    ...but supplement it. See, e.g., Miller v. Rohling, 720 N.W.2d 562, 567 (Iowa 2006); Perkins v. Madison Cnty. Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264, 271 (Iowa 2000); Bates v. Quality Ready–Mix Co., 261 Iowa 696, 703, 154 N.W.2d 852, 857 (1967). In addition to nuisance claims, parties seeking ......
  • Dahlsten v. Lee, No. C06-3087-MWB.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa
    • January 23, 2008
    ...grand fathered as a permitted non-conforming use pursuant to the Zoning Ordinance. See Perkins v. Madison County Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264, 270 (Iowa 2000) (noting that under Iowa law "[a] non-conforming use is one`that existed and was lawful when the [zoning] restriction becam......
  • Perkins v. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 99-0583.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 15, 2001
    ...the owner of the property nearest the racetrack established the races were a nuisance. Perkins v. Madison County Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264 (Iowa 2000) (Perkins B. Current Litigation In an attempt to comply with the district court's ruling, the Association applied for a zoning c......
  • Hawkeye Land Co. v. ITC Midwest LLC, No. C 15–3119–MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • August 11, 2015
    ...priority of location, the nature of the neighborhood, and the wrong complained of.Perkins v. Madison County Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264, 271 (Iowa 2000) (quoting Weinhold v. Wolff, 555 N.W.2d 454, 459 (Iowa 1996), in turn quoting Bates, 154 N.W.2d at 857 ). "From this discussion,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Freeman v. Grain Processing Corp., No. 13–0723.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 13, 2014
    ...but supplement it. See, e.g., Miller v. Rohling, 720 N.W.2d 562, 567 (Iowa 2006); Perkins v. Madison Cnty. Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264, 271 (Iowa 2000); Bates v. Quality Ready–Mix Co., 261 Iowa 696, 703, 154 N.W.2d 852, 857 (1967). In addition to nuisance claims, parties seeking ......
  • Dahlsten v. Lee, No. C06-3087-MWB.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa
    • January 23, 2008
    ...grand fathered as a permitted non-conforming use pursuant to the Zoning Ordinance. See Perkins v. Madison County Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264, 270 (Iowa 2000) (noting that under Iowa law "[a] non-conforming use is one`that existed and was lawful when the [zoning] restriction becam......
  • Perkins v. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 99-0583.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 15, 2001
    ...the owner of the property nearest the racetrack established the races were a nuisance. Perkins v. Madison County Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264 (Iowa 2000) (Perkins B. Current Litigation In an attempt to comply with the district court's ruling, the Association applied for a zoning c......
  • Hawkeye Land Co. v. ITC Midwest LLC, No. C 15–3119–MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • August 11, 2015
    ...priority of location, the nature of the neighborhood, and the wrong complained of.Perkins v. Madison County Livestock & Fair Ass'n, 613 N.W.2d 264, 271 (Iowa 2000) (quoting Weinhold v. Wolff, 555 N.W.2d 454, 459 (Iowa 1996), in turn quoting Bates, 154 N.W.2d at 857 ). "From this discussion,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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