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Local News

February 15, 2013

Lawsuit accuses Centerville of violating Iowa, U.S. constitutions

CENTERVILLE — Some of the Centerville residents and business owners in the proposed West State Street Project Improvement area have filed a class action civil lawsuit against the city because they claim it violates several constitutions.

At one point 32 plaintiffs were part of the petition in equity class action lawsuit filed Oct. 8, 2012 against the city. Now, only First Baptist Church, Curt Carey, Sherri Hayes, Lora Hyde, Mike Kelley, Pat Kelley, Jene' Marts, Rhonda Moore, Larry Moore, Jason Sandberg, Stacey Sandberg, Robert Schwering, Julie Stevens, Mikal Stickler, Steve Stufflebeem, Martha Stufflebeem, Joyce Stufflebeem and Marge Winkel remain.

The plaintiffs challenge the amounts being assessed by the city against their respective properties based on the fact the street project excessively assess each property.

Iowa law allows a special assessment against a property but only to the extent that there is a special benefit conferred upon the property owner.

The lawsuit contends the special preliminary assessments imposed by the city of Centerville "exceeds the special benefit conferred to the owners and exceeds any amount allowable" under Iowa law.

The lawsuit contends the motoring public and all Centerville citizens receive a general benefit.

"For that reason the special assessments in the Preliminary Assessment exceed the amount of special benefit and is illegal, inappropriate and in violation of both the Constitution of Iowa and of the United States."

The lawsuit contends the street improvements would provide a limited benefit to the plaintiff's properties and the formula and methodology the city used to determine special benefits bears no relationship to the special benefit and is an attempt to impose an excessive special assessment "that is arbitrary, capricious and illegal."

Streets in the Centerville West State Street Project Improvement area include portions of East and West State streets and North 10th Street.

The lawsuit states plaintiffs submitted written objections with the city to the special assessments prior to the public hearing and were not given "due and proper notice of the specific details of the project."

In summary, the plaintiffs are asking the court to find the city's assessments adopted by Resolution of Necessity excessive, unfair and illegal, the proposed street improvement project confers benefit to the motoring public and other relief as the court deems appropriate.

The city of Centerville responded and called certain allegations made by the plaintiffs fail "to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." The city asks the court to confirm the special assessments and to dismiss the petition in equity with costs to the plaintiffs.

A pretrial conference is set for March 12 at 9:30 a.m. in the Appanoose County Courthouse.

Second in a series: Next week, a look at what the special assessment imposed by the city is for each plaintiff.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centerville City Council in June by a 5-0 vote passed the first reading of just such an ordinance. Public pressure and during a subsequent special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance. A second special meeting to discuss the solicitation ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 at City Hall. So, the question of the week is, "Do you or do you not support the ordinance to prevent solicitation of funds in city streets?"

A. I support the ordinance
B. I do not support the ordinance
C. Not sure
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