Iowa City, council sued over development

IOWA CITY — The city of Iowa City and the City Council has been sued by a man who is against a proposed housing development north of Rohret Road.

In a lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court earlier this month, Robert Hegeman, of 44 Tucson Place, contends that a development planned for the west side of town was scaled down in an effort to invalidate a protest petition filed by neighbors.

In the lawsuit, he objects to the rejection of the petition and says the city should have given formal notice and held a separate public hearing on the revised project.

A petition signed by more than 20 percent of nearby landowners was filed with the city earlier this year. It would have required a supermajority of at least six council members to approve a rezoning request.

The original proposal called for 170 lots. After the public hearing was closed, the project was downsized so that the petition had signatures from less than 20 percent of adjacent property owners, meaning only a simple majority of council members had to approve it.

The council OK’d the rezoning with a 5-2 vote in May. Click here and go to Pg. 65 for a transcript of Hegeman’s argument before the council, City Attorney Eleanor Dilke’s response and the council’s discussion.

Assistant City Attorney Sara Hektoen said in an interview that the council reduced the area to be rezoned in response to the residents’ concerns, not to circumvent the petition. Because the project was downsized, no additional property owners were affected, so the council did not need another public hearing, she said.

Hegeman, who lives near the proposed development and is representing himself, declined to comment.

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