2020 Legislative Changes Impacting Planning and Zoning in Iowa

By: Eric Christianson

In addition to the changes to county zoning, discussed in this post, brought about by HF 2512 and HF 2477. There were a number of other legislative changes this past session. These include limitations on the ability of cities or counties to regulate: short-term rentals, shooting ranges and ammunition storage, cell tower siting, and food stands operated by minors.

Short-term rental regulation preemption

HF2641 adds a definition of “short-term rental property” to Iowa Code and places restrictions on the ability of cities and counties to regulate properties managed as short-term rentals. Essentially, short-term rentals are any dwelling that, “is offered for a fee for thirty days or less.” Cities and counties are required to consider property managed as a short-term rental a residential land use.

Local governments may not prohibit, require a license or permit, or charge any fee for short-term rental property. It also prevents cities and counties from adopting, “any regulation, restriction, or other ordinance… relating to short-term rental properties.” There are a handful of exceptions to this allowable only, “if enforcement is performed in the same manner as enforcement applicable to similar properties that are not short-term rental properties.”

Regulation of weapons, shooting ranges, and ammunition

HF 2502 contain a number of restrictions on local governments relating to the regulation of firearms.

The major change to city and county zoning enabling legislation says that in approving the use, establishment, or expansion of a shooting range, the city or county zoning commission may apply and enforce zoning regulations, but may not require compliance with “any conditions… that are more stringent than those imposed by state law.” In cases where there is no zoning commission, then this applies to the city council or county board of supervisors.

A notable element of this addition is that it implies that the zoning commission, an advisory body to the city council or county board of supervisors, is responsible for the application and enforcement of zoning regulations when applied to shooting ranges.

Additionally, local governments may not regulate the storage of weapons or ammunition. There are other restrictions on local governments in this bill, which have little impact on land use regulation.

Extension of the Iowa Cell Citing Act

The Iowa Cell Citing Act, HF 487, passed during the 2019 legislative session requires local permitting authorities to accept an application for a cell tower if the proposed tower is:

  • In an unincorporated part of a county with <15,000 population
  • Not on land used for single family housing
  • Not within a designated area of historical significance
  • Tower will be part of the nationwide public safety radio network

The act was originally passed in response to a specific denial of a permit for a cell tower in Allamakee County in 2018 and was set to expire July 1, 2022. SF 2196 adopted this year extends the act through July 1, 2025.

Regulation of food stands operated by minors

HF 2238 makes it so that state and local governments may not require a license, permit, or fee for temporary food stands on private property operated by minors. The exceptions to this are foods that require time/temperature control for safety purposes or alcoholic beverages.

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