IA Appeals Court Affirms Zoning Board of Annulment’s Decision that Special Use Permit Was Reasonable and Supported by Substantial Evidence

This post was authored by Anna Kim, Touro University Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

The appellant, Donald, and Judith Brinkley, appealed and argued that the City of Milford Zoning Board of Adjustment (Board) illegally granted the special use permit to Okoboji Community School District (OCSD) without substantial evidence. The District Court held that the Board’s decision to approve the special permit with a condition to delay the vegetative screening was legal and supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

In May 2021, the OCSD submitted a special use permit to construct a new bus and multipurpose building. The Brinkleys, who lived adjacent to the school, opposed the permit claiming that OCSD failed to comply with a special permit granted in 2004. OSCD previously failed to install a vegetative screening on the school’s property as a special condition from the prior special use permit. The superintendent argued that the project was not completed due to the dying planted trees, the inadequate row of vegetation, and not completing the planting of the trees on the other side. Nonetheless, the superintendent requested a special permit to install the construction of a new bus and multipurpose building. The superintendent provided a diagram and agreed to install the vegetative screening after construction in anticipation of any changes to the project. The Board approved the special permit with the condition that the screening was installed after twelve months of substantial completion of the construction.

The Brinkleys filed for a petition of certificate claiming that the Board granted the special permit without substantial evidence as required by the zoning ordinance. The Brinkleys also argued that granting the permit would improperly affect the neighboring properties, waiting twelve months to install was inadequate for enforcement, and the school failed to enforce the 2004 special permit requirement. Notwithstanding, the Court of Appeals determined that the Board acted legally using substantial evidence because the project may require removal and rebuilding of the screen if there is a mismatch in vegetation. As a result, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision that the Board’s decision was legal, reasonable, and not an arbitrary nor capricious decision.

Brinkley v. City of Milford Zoning Bd. of Adjustment, 2022 WL 16634394, (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 2, 2022)