Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Requiring Farmers To Lower Grain Leg, But Removes Year-Long $200 Per Day Penalties

The Supreme Court of Iowa filed a decision today (Friday) on the more than four-year-old issue of a grain leg that protrudes a little over 60 feet into the protected airspace at the Carroll Airport. Farmers Loren and Pan Danner had requested and received a permit to build the grain leg in 2013 from the county. However, the request was not presented to the airport commission, and was later found to violate their zoning ordinance. The commission filed a suit to have the problem mitigated. Danner received a “no hazard” designation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), approving the structure as long as it was painted and a blinking light placed on top. The court ruled, however, that the FAA decision did not supersede the commission’s ordinance. In Friday’s ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the lower court, but has dismissed a penalty of $200 per day that had been enacted as of May 1, 2018. Airport commissioner, Greg Siemann, says the Danners will be given nine months from the date the Supreme Court issues their instructions to remediate the hazard.

Danner and his attorney, Steve Hamilton, recently approached both the commission and the Carroll County Board of Supervisors with a settlement offer. He was asking the commission to waive the $200 per day penalty and the supervisors to provide $100,000 as about half of the cost to lower the leg. The supervisors put the wheels into motion and agreed to pay a $2,500 deductible and have their insurance company negotiate a settlement with Hamilton. To date, no settlement has been announced. Siemann says this ruling is actually going to coincide with the settlement request, but since the commission felt they were going to win, they had no interest in settling. They had asked that Danner pay the attorney fees before they would consider any offer.

The airport was placed in a precarious position with federal authorities, according to Siemann, as the FAA would want reimbursement for millions of dollars in grant money due to non-compliance with their posted airport protection plan. The Danner leg, Siemann says, violated that plan. He does state, however, that even though this may be the end of the line for Danner on appeals, it is not necessarily over as far as the commission is concerned.

Siemann claims the supervisors told him in 2013 this was Danner’s problem, not theirs. Supervisor, Rich Ruggles, says he has been reading through the decision, but the basic point is that this is a sad situation for everyone involved. Hopefully, he says, they can move forward now and not continue to be mired down in this drawn out legal battle. He adds Siemann has previously presented a bill for his legal services in this matter. They did not pay it, and as of now, he doesn’t believe there is any intention to do so.

The commission, he says, has established a pattern of not supplying a timely issuance of ordinance changes to County Planning and Zoning Director, Carl Wilburn. Ruggles adds it would be very unfortunate if the commission would pursue this–nobody won in this case, he says, and it is high time to put the issue to bed. Carroll Broadcasting has reached out to Danner and Hamilton, but no response had yet been received at the time of this airing.