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Determination of nearest feasible access route should consider impact on neighboring properties and cost of acquisition.

The impact on neighboring properties and the cost of development should be considered in determining the nearest feasible route in a private condemnation proceeding, according to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Iowa.

In 2006, Wilderness Ridge, LLC (Wilderness) purchased a 75-acre tract of land for recreational and hunting purposes. The tract was landlocked and inaccessible by public road or private access. Wilderness proceeded to file a private condemnation proceeding under Iowa Code section 6A.4(2) to gain access to its property across the neighboring tracts. This section of the code provides private citizens in Iowa a limited power of eminent domain and also provides guidance for the courts to determine the appropriate route to be condemned. In part, the code provides that a condemned public way shall be located along the nearest feasible route to an existing public road.

Edward, Melvin, and Barbara Green (Plaintiffs) filed a petition arguing the proposed route was not the nearest feasible route, as required by the statute, and would have a devastating impact on their dairy farm. At the district court level, the Plaintiffs produced a farm auctioneer as a witness who estimated their land would be devalued by $180,000 if the court allowed condemnation of the proposed route. The district court held the devaluation of the Plaintiffs' farm could not be considered in selecting the route. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's decision.

Absent specific criteria from the Iowa legislature to establish the nearest feasible route, the Iowa Supreme Court decided to follow other jurisdictions and adopt a flexible approach. The supreme court believed ignoring the cost of acquiring the condemned property would lead to absurdities. The court thought it unlikely the legislature intended the route must always be the shortest without regard for the negative impacts on other landholders or the overall cost of development, taking into consideration the cost of acquisition. The supreme court remanded the case to the district court to determine the nearest feasible route, taking into consideration the cost of acquiring the condemned property.

Green v. Wilderness Ridge, LLC.

Supreme Court of Iowa

January 8, 2010

2010 WL 45928 (Iowa)

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Title Annotation:Recent Court Decisions
Author:Weinberger, Alan M.
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Jun 22, 2010
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