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The Iowa City ordinance, Iowa City, Iowa Code § 14-6W-3(D), codifies the rule adopted by the Iowa Supreme Court that boards of adjustment shall make written findings of fact on all issues presented in any adjudicatory proceeding. Substantial--as opposed to literal--compliance with the written-findings requirement is sufficient. "Substantial compliance" means the statute or rule has been followed sufficiently so as to carry out the intent for which it was adopted. Thus, the reviewing court must determine based on the facts of the particular case whether the actual compliance has accomplished the purpose of the statute or rule.
The appellant, Iowa City Board of Adjustment, approved the application of appellant, Shelter House Community Shelter and Transition Services, for a special exception to a local zoning regulation to allow Shelter House to construct transient housing in a commercial district. The appellees, opponents of Shelter House's application, successfully challenged the board's decision in district court. Although the district court rejected the objectors' contention the board had failed to make the necessary factual findings, the court ruled there was not substantial evidence to support the board's finding that the proposed transient housing would not substantially diminish or impair property values in the neighborhood. The court also determined the board had improperly interpreted and applied the parking-space requirements governing transient housing. The board and Shelter House appealed the district court's reversal of the board's approval of Shelter House's application and argued that the board failed to properly interpret the parking-space requirement of the applicable city ordinance and, consequently, acted illegally in approving a special exception that did not propose an adequate number of parking spaces.
Was there substantial evidence to support the board's finding that property values would not be adversely affected?
The supreme court found that the issue, which was not raised at the hearing before the board, had not been preserved for review. The supreme court found it was sufficiently clear that the board considered the general standards, including whether the proposed special exception would substantially diminish or impair property values in the neighborhood, and concluded by a majority vote that these standards were met. Under Iowa Code § 414.8, it was inconsistent to define an illegality as a lack of substantial evidence to support the board's decision, but then place the ultimate fact-finding responsibility on the district court. The evidence was adequate to support the board's conclusion that the proposed special exception would not substantially diminish or impair the value of the neighboring properties.