City of Winterset, Iowa, Can Keep Shooting Range, Appeals Court Rules

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Lease of city property.

Zuendel Investment, Inc., v. Board of Trustees of the Waterworks and Electric Light and Power Plant of the City of Wintersset, Iowa. Iowa lease of public property

The City of Winterset, in Madison County, Iowa, owns a seven-acre parcel of land that is zoned for conservation-open space. The land is managed by the board of trustees of the Waterworks and Electric Light and Power Plant. Since about 1980, there has been an outdoor shooting range on the property. The shooting range was originally organized by the Madison County Conservation Board, the Iowa State Conservation Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local officials, and the Madison County Sportsmen's Club, Inc. In recent years, the Club has operated the range, and makes an annual lease payment of one dollar to the city.

The Club operates the range for public benefit, and makes the space available for a variety of public purposes including hunter education and law enforcement training.

In 2011, the lease was up for renewal and public hearings were held. Zuendel Investment, Inc., is a real estate developer that owns residential property in the town. It objected to the continuation of the shooting range, and Mr. Zuendel appeared at the hearings with his attorney. He expressed concerns about noise, health, safety, and environmental concerns. He also claimed that the shooting range violated zoning laws and was inconsistent with the City's development plans.

After much research, the Board made a new lease agreement with the Club for another five years. Dissatisfied with the board's decision, Zuendel filed a petition with the district court of Madison County. He argued that the lease was an illegal gift under Iowa Code 364.7 because it amounted to an illegal gift of city property to the Club. The Board asked for the case to be dismissed, and the District Court agreed, granting the Board's motion for summary judgment.

Zuendel, Inc., displeased with this action, took the case to the Iowa Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals did concede that Zuendel had standing to bring the action, since it was the owner of adjoining property and the shooting range did affect those interests.

But on the merits, the Court of Appeals was not sympathetic. It noted that the argument regarding Iowa Code 364.7 should have been brought up before the board, and not for the first time when the case got to court. For that reason alone, the Court of Appeals held that the lower court's action should be affirmed.

Since Zuendel had not properly raised the argument before the Board, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of the petition.

No. 3-1109 / 13-0475 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 5, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


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Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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