Iowa Law Limiting Occupancy Restrictions to go into Effect January 1, 2018

By Eric Christianson

House File 134 was signed into law on April 21 by Gov. Branstad limiting the ability of cities to set occupancy restrictions based on familial relationships. This law has appeared several times in various forms over the past few years in the Iowa legislature. It was opposed by many larger cities along with the Iowa League of Cities. It was supported by the Iowa ACLU as well as the Landlords of Iowa.

The bill amends Iowa Code 414.1 subsection 1, adding the bolded text:

a. For the purpose of promoting the health, safety, morals, or the general welfare of the community or for the purpose of preserving historically significant areas of the community, any city is hereby empowered to regulate and restrict the height, number of stories, and size of buildings and other structures, the percentage of lot that may be occupied, the size of yards, courts, and other open spaces, the density of population, and the location and use of buildings, structures, and land for trade, industry, residence, or other purposes.

b. A city shall not, after January 1, 2018, adopt or enforce any regulation or restriction related to the occupancy of residential rental property that is based upon the existence of familial or non familial relationships between the occupants of such rental property.

This change will mostly impact college towns which were actively trying to limit the number of students moving into historically single-family neighborhoods.

See coverage of the bill’s passage in the Des Moines Register and the Ames Tribune and Little Village to read more about how some communities have responded.

You can find a copy of the bill as well as its history here.



Third and final installment: Iowa’s impending wireless facilities siting legislation

One of the goals of HF655 was to fill in “gaps” in the FCC rules when it comes to local regulation of the placement of new towers.  The first two posts on this blog essentially addressed those circumstances.  Another goal of the bill was to create a set of rules at the state level (which is then applied locally) that is identical to the FCC rules at the federal level.  Several sections of HF655 are thus simply a state codification of the shot clock rules (2009 FCC ruling), and a state codification of the rules from the Spectrum Act (2014 FCC ruling) that streamline approval of activities that do not constitute a “substantial change.”  The bill therefore

  • Sets forth definitions for “base station,” “collocation,” “eligible facilities request,” existing tower,” “substantial change,” “tower,” “transmission equipment,” “wireless support structure” that mirror those in the prior two FCC rulings.
  • Requires local governments to act on new tower applications within 150 days of receiving a complete application for construction, consistent with the 2009 FCC ruling.
  • Requires local governments to act within 90 days of receiving a complete application for “initial placement or installation of transmission equipment on wireless support structures, a modification of an existing tower or existing base station that constitutes a substantial change, or a request for construction or placement of transmission equipment that does not constitute an eligible facilities request,” consistent with both the 2009 and 2014 FCC rulings.

All records, documents, and electronic data submitted to the local government as part of the application process are treated as information subject to the Open Records Act (Iowa Code Chapter 22).  Presumably this provision was acceptable to the industry because the bill put significant limitations on the types of information that the local government could request from the applicant in the first place.

Legislative update 5/11, thanks in major part to Iowa League of Cities

I am shamelessly co-opting a good portion of the Friday legislative update from Robert Palmer and the Iowa League of Cities’ for this post regarding the progress of TIF legislation and cell tower siting.

An amendment to HF628, the bill that impacts Iowa’s Urban Renewal law, was filed online last week. The amendment removes the language related to ratcheting up by 7.5 percent the bases of TIF districts that do not currently have a sunset until no increment remains and replaces it with new language that would:

  • Make changes to the definition of “blighted area” under Code Section 403.17;
  • Set a sunset for pre-1995 economic development TIF districts in year 2035 and all future economic development TIF districts would continue to have a 20-year limitation, which is current law;
  • Set a sunset in year 2040 for any current slum and blight TIF district and all future TIF districts formed for slum and blight would be limited to 25 years, which is a change from no current time limitation to these districts;
  • Allow the Department of Management to make rules to implement the new limitations.

The bill still creates a reporting requirement for the Legislative Services Agency to separate out the total TIF debt from annual TIF debt on the existing forms in a report to legislators and would prohibit TIF from being utilized on future public buildings.

HF655, the “Iowa Cell Siting Act,” passed out of the House on Thursday morning with an amendment by a vote of 59-39. The goal of this bill is to provide a standard set of regulations in relation to wireless broadband deployment. It prohibits cities and counties from considering several important factors in making their determinations on the siting of new cell towers.  House Chamber Rules were suspended to allow Amendment H-1336 to be attached to HF655. The amended bill attaches the flood mitigation language that was originally removed from the Iowa Economic Development Authority Omnibus bill in the House Ways & Means Committee. The flood mitigation portion affects the cities in the Des Moines metropolitan area.

Iowa legislative update 5/4

HF557 amending the requirements for establishing, financing, and dissolving Rural Improvement Zones, has been succeeded by HF615.  HF615 passed the Senate on April 29 by 49-0 vote.

HF556 – The Iowa Cell Siting Act – is now succeeded by HF655.  It will likely be brought up for debate soon.

HF 619 addresses the use of eminent domain authority for creating lakes for drinking water sources.

HF 628 would make several modifications to Iowa’s urban renewal law by modifying requirements for the annual report prepared by the legislative services agency, establishing restrictions on the use of divided revenues, and modifying the methodology for calculating the amount of divided revenues.

Iowa legislative update, 4/28

The land use related activity seems to have narrowed to a few bills.

Cell towersHF556 passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee with a 14-9 vote.  It would provide a uniform set of regulations for the approval of new towers by local governments, thus preempting local zoning on several issues.  The FCC ruling issued last fall (blogposts here) addressed collocation of facilities and substantial modifications to existing facilities.  This legislation is primarily directed at new tower siting, and would provide standard definitions, uniform application standards and a streamlined process.

Abandoned nuisance properties:  The sections addressing abandoned nuisance properties and flood mitigation were stripped out of HF385.  before passing out of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Eminent DomainSF449, a bill relating to procedures and requirements for condemning property and disposing of certain condemned property, passed out of the House 92-3.  It previously passed out of the Senate 50-0. The bill specifies that the authority to condemn property is not conferred on an acquiring agency unless the governing body for the acquiring agency first approves a preliminary or final route or site location of the proposed public improvement.

Land use-related bills introduced in Iowa Legislature

We are approximately one month into the Iowa legislative session, and the following land use-related bills have been introduced thus far.  None are past subcommittee stage.

SF152 – Provides, among other things, that the authority to condemn property is not conferred on an acquiring agency unless the governing body for the acquiring agency first approves the final route or site location and design of the proposed public improvement (think “pipeline”).

SF128 – Amends the requirements for establishing, financing, and dissolving Rural Improvement Zones.

SF25 – Authorizes a city or county to provide a property tax exemption for properties declared to be public nuisances in the amount of the actual value of improvements added to the property.

HF59 – Preempts local regulation of firearms,  firearm accessories, and ammunition.  Makes an exception for “the enactment or enforcement of a generally applicable zoning or business ordinance that includes firearms businesses along with other businesses, provided that an ordinance designed or enforced to effectively restrict or prohibit the sale, purchase, transfer, manufacture, or display of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition otherwise lawful under the laws of this state, which is in conflict with this section, is void.”

HF161 – Prohibits cities, after January 1, 2016, from adopting or enforcing “any regulation or restriction related to the occupancy of residential rental property that is based upon the existence of familial or non-familial relationships between the occupants of such rental property.”

Getting caught up on Iowa legislative activities

This won’t take long.

The Des Moines Register ran an article that sums up the state of legislative activity during this year’s session.  Not much going on with any of the bills I’ve been tracking to-date.  Here is what I have since my last review:

SF390 –  discussed here – passed the house 97-0, and was sent to the Governor for his signature.

HF307 moving Homeland Security and Emergency Management from the Department of Public Defense into its own department, passed the Senate 48-0 and was sent to the Governor for his signature.

Other bills have been referred on to full committees: HF184, HF268, HF516, SF420 (formerly SF70).

More action this week

I overlooked a bill from this week:

SF390 –  In 2008 the legislature put into place a law requiring an inspection of private sewage disposal systems at the time of some types of title transfers. Title abstracts to such property were required to include documentation of the inspection. In 2010 the title abstract requirement was eliminated. This bill adds a retroactive applicability provision to the 2010 action, making the elimination of the title abstract requirement retroactive to July 1, 2009, which is the original enactment date of the title abstract requirement.

Legislative action as of March 20

HF268 eliminating smart planning from the Iowa Code.  The House Local Government Committee held an interesting committee hearing Tuesday morning.

HF219 regarding eminent domain, passed the house 93-6, and was sent to the Senate.

HF359 which would nullify the Mall Real Estate case, passed the house 90-10, and was sent to the Senate.

HF307, creating the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, passed the house 100-0 and was sent to the Senate.  The Senate bill is SF289.

HSB75 concerning special assessments, is now HF588.

HF561 would provide a property tax exemption for property used as a fruit and/or vegetable garden by the city or a non-profit(?).

HF516 would place limitations on the provision of water services by rural water associations to areas within two miles of a city after July 1, 2013.  Itexpands the notice requirements placed on the rural water association.  It also substantially increases the required contents of the water plan beyond just showing the new area the district is to serve. Among the new requirements of the plan is the area the district or association intends to serve within four years following the date that the plan is filed with a city; information relating to federal financing, fire protection service capacity, and information related to the number of customers served or intended to be served.  Current law provides that a city may waive its right to provide water service within the areas designated in a water plan. The bill provides that a city may rescind such a waiver after four years if the water district or association has not provided service to the area. The bill provides a definition for the term “economically or  adequately served” related to the provision of water service by a district or association. It provides that a district be compensated for distribution facilities acquired by a city through buyout procedures and provides a formula for determining the amount of compensation to be paid. The bill further provides that a city may provide compensation to a district or association for service that was proposed or intended to be provided by the district or association at the time of acquisition. The bill further provides that if the city or city utility cannot reach an agreement for the retention of certain rights by a district or association, that the issues may be submitted to mediation.

HF498 is a companion to SF280, making new electrical installations on farms subject to the inspection and enforcement provisions  of Chapter 103, which includes requiring the submission of a request for inspection, payment of inspection fees, performance of an inspection, and condemnation and disconnection orders and appeal procedures

SF70 requiring American products in public projects is now SF420

New bills before funnel

HF388 –  The board of cosmetology sets the minimum physical requirements for schools of cosmetology arts and sciences (who knew?). HF388 would require a minimum floor space of 1,200 square feet for a school that teaches only one course of study each for nail technology, esthetics, or electrology.

HF385 – This bill would allow a county board of supervisors to have not more than three nonbinding questions related to the duties, powers, organization, or policies of the county submitted to the registered voters of that county at a general election.  My immediate reaction is that this could apply to rezoning applications.

SF325 – This bill would prohibit the bylaws of homeowners associations or of housing cooperatives from restricting individual owners from displaying political signs less than days prior to any election and days following any election, and cannot restrict the size of the sign to less than 750 square inches. It also would allow signs advocating for or against a specific issue to be displayed at any time.





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