Update: In the first afternoon of testimony in the lawsuit on the Field of Dreams rezoning, petitioner Jeff Pape testified that he believed water quality, traffic safety and his farming operations could be adversely affected by the development of a youth sports complex at the 25-year-old filming site.
Pape and other neighbors, organized as the Residential and Agricultural Advisory Committee, LLC, have sued the city, arguing that the rezoning was “arbitrary and capricious.” The city maintains that the council acted within its legislative mandate in rezoning the property to allow the yet-unbuilt All-Star Ballpark Heaven complex.
Pape testified that he had not seen a detailed site plan of the project when neighbors raised objections. “A site plan would answer a lot of questions for a lot of people, on both sides,” he said.
Pape said that traffic to the development may be unfamiliar with the large machinery he and other farmers drive in the area to plant, spray and harvest crops. He testified about an incident on the weekend celebrating the movie’s 25th anniversary, when an out-of-state vehicle passed his son dangerously on the road near the movie site.
City attorney Doug Henry questioned Pape on the behavior of the motorist, saying that other laws already governed the cars speeding, illegal passing and unsafe driving.
Pape also argued that the development could adversely impact the Hewitt Creek watershed. Millions of dollars have been poured into the watershed, with the participation of more than 70 farmers, to lessen nitrogen and phosphorus run-off into the stream.
“Isn’t it true that All-Star Ballpark Heaven, if it comes to be, will be under the jurisdiction of the DNR for runoff and water quality?” Henry asked. Pape and attorneys also argued over whether a water study should have been done before or after the rezoning.
“What we have is a difference in opinion, and it’s council’s job to make a decision,” said Henry.
“It’s council’s job to make a decision based on facts,” answered Pape.
Objections from Henry kept Pape from repeating second-hand the potential impacts of the development on aerial spraying he uses on farmland he works.
Henry also argued that points of the testimony were “argumentative,” not testimonial in nature. In cross-questioning, he said that long-existing uses of the property didn’t conform with agricultural zoning.
Also this afternoon, RAAC petitioner Al Demmer took the stand, and fellow petitioner Matt Mescher continued his testimony from the morning. “The allure of the movie is that the ballfield is dropped in the middle of the cornfield in the middle of Iowa,” Mescher said.
Mescher added that visitors stop at the entrance to the property to take in the cinematic farmland view. “People know that with this development, that will go away forever,” he said.
“The Field of Dreams is one thing,” he continued. “All-Star Ballpark Heaven is another.”
First thing tomorrow morning, former West Des Moines planner and consultant Christopher Shires takes the stand.
Original story: In the first half-day of testimony in the court case between the city of Dyersville and neighbors of a proposed development at the Field of Dreams, a spokesman for the neighbors testified and attorneys gave a brief overview of their arguments.
Matt Mescher of the Residential and Agricultural Advisory Committee told judge Thomas Bitter that a 2003 annexation plan map showing continued agricultural use influenced his decision to buy property adjoining the Field of Dreams in 2006.
He also believes a 200-foot agriculturally-zoned buffer zone around the edge of the Field of Dreams property was intended to keep himself and other neighbors from filing a protest against the rezoning.
He recalled first watching a map of the buffer zones load slowly on his home computer. “I can tell you my blood pressure rose quite extensively at that point,” he said.
In opening statements, attorneys for the city and the landowners argued over whether rezoning proceedings are “legislative” or “quasi-judicial.” RAAC attorney Susan Hess argued that the process is quasi-judicial and, as such, the city council is “not allowed to prejudge.”
“They didn’t approach the rezoning with an open mind,” she said. She said they approached the rezoning process with the “preconceived notion that it was good for economic development.”
City attorney Doug Henry disagreed. “You heard it again: quasi-judicial,” he said. He said the plaintiffs have been “chanting that like a mantra” and are “trying to pull us through the looking glass, where Humpty Dumpty said ‘Words mean just what I want them to mean, no more, no less.’”
“There is nothing wrong with (the city council) deciding that the interests of the many override the interests of the few,” he said.
Bitter allowed testimony to be heard over objections, stating that he would consider the appropriateness of the testimony as the trial continues.
The trial is scheduled for seven days in the Dubuque County courthouse. About 15 people attended proceedings Monday morning as the trial opened in the building’s north courtroom.