Demolition First, Objection Second: Iowa Sets Dangerous Legal Precedent
The City of Cedar Rapids passed a resolution seeking condemnation of property owned by Rex Realty Co. for a proposed new street. Rex Realty was not provided with prior notice of the condemnation or the availability of any pre-condemnation opportunity to challenge the validity of the taking. The company filed suit in federal court alleging that the Iowa eminent domain statute violated its due process rights because it provided no notice or pre-condemnation hearing on the issue of public purpose. The company contended that the City took the property for a private purpose—a second driveway to a single adjacent parcel of private property. Amazingly, the district court ruled that the City acted properly, and that the question of public purpose “is purely political, does not require a hearing, and is not the subject of judicial inquiry.”1 Update: In March 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed with the trial court, holding that it was good enough for the company to challenge the condemnation after the property was taken.2 The decision will affect the rights of all home and business owners in Iowa, except farmers. The Iowa legislature has made sure that farmers will receive better notice than Rex Realty did, but all other Iowans can still find that they have missed crucial hearings on proposals to condemn their property.
1 Rex Realty Co. v. City of Cedar Rapids, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2142, at *9 (N.D. Iowa Jan. 29, 2002).
2 Rex Realty Co. v. Iowa, 2003 U.S. App. Lexis 4013 (8th Cir. Mar. 7, 2003).