Wal-Mart’s marathon battle to float a 183,000 s.f. supercenter just over the city line of Decorah, Iowa is now more up in the air than ever. According to a report from sprawl-busters in Decorah, Wal-Mart suffered a legal setback today when a court ruling threw cold water on their plans. Wal-Mart wants to build in a floodplain, and this fight has been going on since before I visited this wonderful community back in December of 1998 — three and a half years ago. Wal-Mart got the City Council to approve their plans to fill the Upper Iowa River floodplain with dirt, in effect altering the floodplain. But what they did was legally flawed. Here’s the report filed today: “Iowa Appeals Court reverses Wal-Mart zoning; orders case back to district court The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled against the Decorah City Council, saying that it acted illegally in approving the rezoning of land for the Wal-Mart supercenter. The decision casts into doubt the future of the Wal-Mart supercenter on land that had been located in the floodplain before fill was added. The opinion, released July 31st, says that the ordinance approved by the city council allowing Wal-Mart to fill in the floodplain unduly limited the power of the Board of Adjustment. The Appeals Court said a “fact-intensive, case-specific analysis” would have been performed by the Board of Adjustment if it had been asked to rule on whether Wal-Mart should be allowed to fill the floodplain. “The board of adjustment, a quasi judicial body, is the appropriate body to make such an analysis. A legislative body, whose function it is to issue uniform restrictions and regulations, is not,” concluded the court. Added the decision, “The use proposed by Wal-Mart not only removes the land at issue from its floodplain definition, it imposes many complications into the continuing use of the land, complications which can only be addressed specifically and adequately by a quasi judicial body, namely the board of adjustment.” The decision by the Court of Appeals invalidates the Decorah City Council’s actions and sends the case back to Winneshiek County District Court for a remedy. It is unknown what impact the legal decision will have on the supercenter construction and the scheduled September opening of the store.”
Decorah residents who fought this superstore for nearly 4 years are not sure what will happen when this case is brought back to the Board of Adjustment, which has not favored destroying the floordplain. Their City Council has acted illegally said the court, but in the meantime Wal-Mart has been building an illegal store. The decision of the Court of Appeals of Iowa is No. 2-058 / 00-2113, filed July 31, 2002. The case was on an appeal from the Iowa District Court for Winneshiek County. Congratulations to the Decorah residents who have fought Wal-Mart’s efforts to sprawl on the Upper Iowa river, just miles from their existing 75,000 s.f. Wal-Mart store. For more background on the Decorah battle, search this Newsflash page by “Decorah”.