Bontrager Auto Service, Inc. v. Iowa City Board of Adjustment

748 N.W.2d 483 (2008)

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Bontrager Auto Service, Inc. v. Iowa City Board of Adjustment

Iowa Supreme Court
748 N.W.2d 483 (2008)

Facts

Shelter House Community Shelter and Transition Services (Shelter House) had operated a transient housing facility in Iowa City for twenty years and wanted to open an additional facility in another area of the city. The proposed location of the new facility was zoned intensive commercial, a designation that permitted transient housing by special exception. The Iowa City Code required the Iowa City Board of Adjustment (the board) (defendant) to make several findings before approving a special exception. One of the required findings was that the special exception would not substantially diminish or impair property values in the neighborhood. Shelter House applied for a special exception, and, after receiving a staff report recommending its approval, the board held a meeting at which thirty-seven individuals spoke. There was no expert testimony concerning property values; however, one person who lived near the existing Shelter House facility testified that property values in that neighborhood had not decreased. Several witnesses reviewed statistics indicating that arrest rates for residents of the existing Shelter House facility were lower than for residents of a mobile-home park near the proposed new location. Two witnesses testified that the existing Shelter House location caused no significant problems and that it had not increased traffic in the area. An urban planner presented national crime research indicating that property values did not necessarily decrease when a transient shelter was operated in a neighborhood. After it heard the public comments, the board approved the special exception. Bontrager Auto Service, Inc. (Bontrager) (plaintiff) and other neighboring landowners filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the district court, asking the court to invalidate the board’s decision. Bontrager argued, among other things, that the board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence. The district court found for Bontrager, reasoning that the board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence. The board appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ternus, C.J.)

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