County board limited to consideration of need for improvements in creating rural improvement zone
by Gary Taylor
Holiday Lake Owners’ Association v. Poweshiek County Board of Supervisors
(Iowa Court of Appeals, February 10, 2010)
Holiday Lake Owners’ Association (HLOA) filed a petition for a public hearing concerning the establishment of a rural improvement zone under Iowa Code 357H.1 and 357H.2. A hearing was held, at which HLOA presented evidence that the area was in need of improvements. At the close of the hearing, the Poweshiek County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to disallow the creation of a rural improvement zone. In reaching the decision the Board made no findings as to whether the area was in need of improvement. Rather, the Board heard objections from the local school district that the creation of a rural improvement zone would have a negative impact on school funding. The Board did observe that an increase in lot and maintenance fees “would be the fairest way to finance the needed improvements at Holiday Lake.”
HLOA filed a petition for certiorari, claiming that the Board’s action was in violation of Iowa Code 357H.1. In granting HLOA’s petition, the district court found that the only alternatives open to the Board under the statute were (1) to determine that the area was in need of improvements and grant the petition, or (2) determine that the area was not in need of improvements and deny the petition. The district court concluded that the Board ignored substantial evidence that the area was in need of improvement, and ordered the Board establish the rural improvement zone.
On the Board’s appeal of the district court decision, the Court of Appeals agreed that the only basis for denying a petition under Chapter 357H is upon a finding that the area is not in need of improvements. “The statute provides no other factor for consideration beyond the need for improvements.” The Board failed to make such a finding. Rather than order the approval of HLOA’s petition as the district court did, however, the Court of Appeals determined that it was beyond the authority of the district court to engage in independent fact-finding and make such an order. Instead the Court of Appeals remanded the case for reconsideration by the Board using only the statutory factor found in 357H.1.