Resolution to create pocket park is not an ordinance

by Gary Taylor

Rickie and Darlene Suiter v. City Council of the City of Princeton
(Iowa Court of Appeals, February 5, 2014)

The Suiters own property in Princeton bounded on the east by the Mississippi River and on the west by South River Drive.  The property in dispute in this case abuts the Suiter property on the north.  It is zoned R1-Residential.  It was the subject of a past court case between the Suiters and the city which concluded with the title to the property being awarded to the city.

In September 2012 the city adopted a resolution declaring the property “shall from this day forward be used as a public park and/or green space in accordance with the permitted use under the R-1 zoning district.”  The Suiters sued the city, raising a number of claims.  The primary claim concerned the legal effect of the resolution.  The Suiters claimed that the resolution was “null and void” because the city “failed to comply with Iowa Code 414.4 [and the Princeton City Code] by failing to first publish notice of a public hearing and to hold a public hearing on the proposed reclassification of the permitted use before adopting” the resolution.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with the Suiters.  The notice provisions of Iowa Code 414.4 only apply to ordinances.  The city’s action was correctly characterized as a resolution since there was no change to the zoning of the property and also no change in the city’s comprehensive plan.  Princeton’s R-1 district allows for public or private parks as permitted uses, and so the resolution did not result in a de facto change in zoning either.

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