Does Westfield have any zoning laws, documents?

Posted January 31, 2019 at 6:00 am


By Julie Ann Madden

Does Westfield have a Planning & Zoning Commission? Does it have a zoning ordinance? A zoning map?

Those were just one set of questions Westfield councilors tried to answer at their Jan. 21 meeting.

As part of the Westfield Comprehensive Plan revision, Nicole Peterson of Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council (SIMPCO) told the council they needed to appoint a Planning & Zoning Commission.

Peterson, who is drafting the revision documents, suggested they appoint three residents to this commission. The Commission needs to review the draft revision and decide whether to recommend or not that the council approve the revised 2019 Comprehensive Plan.

The plan is to have the Planning & Zoning Commission meet just prior to the Council’s next meeting, which is Monday, Feb. 18. It was decided to have the Commission meet at 6:15 p.m. at Westfield City Hall with the council meeting to follow.

If Westfield had a Planning & Zoning Commission, the council had no knowledge of it. In addition, they were not sure if there was a zoning ordinance or map. Councilor James Feauto reported he had found some maps while reorganizing City Hall’s storage areas recently. He volunteered to review the maps to see if there was a zoning map.

Such questions piqued the interest of The Akron Hometowner as searching for documents in the maze of county records always reveals interesting facts and finds.

Although municipal records are sketchy for small towns at the Plymouth County Courthouse because city officials are in charge of such documentation, The Akron Hometowner was able to discover some facts.

At the Plymouth County Assessor’s Office, a listing of what properties are assessed at — residential, commercial or agricultural classification — was able to be created by Plymouth County Assessor’s Office Deputy Jamie Hauser.

However, this is not what the properties may actually have been zoned at but only what the properties’ current land uses are.

Hauser suggested if city officials couldn’t find a zoning map or zoning ordinance document, they create a map using the county assessor’s classifications and go through the legal procedures to declare it the town’s zoning map.

He was also able to answer another question — are the city’s ball fields within the city’s boundaries? One is; one isn’t.

The north ball field lies outside of the city’s limits but it is owned by the City of Westfield.

The Akron Hometowner continued the fact-finding journey to the Plymouth County Recorder’s Office.

Plymouth County Recorder Jolynn Goodchild suggested The Akron Hometowner try the Plymouth County Abstract Co.’s records since The Akron Hometowner was guessing any zoning laws would have been created sometime between the 1950s and 1990s. Simply, that might be faster than trying to find a needle in a haystack of county records without a specific date.

As the journey continued at the Plymouth County Abstract Company in Le Mars, a search revealed a “Clerk’s Certificate RE: Restricted Residence District.”

It’s the only document from the 1960s to present regarding Westfield’s municipal zoning laws on file at the Plymouth County Abstract Co.

Passed by the Westfield City Council on April 19, 1977, and filed by then City Clerk Ronald Burke, this ordinance restricts land uses to residential, school, church and similar purposes in this district.

The boundaries of this district are “all of property located and included within the corporate limits of the Original City Plat of Westfield, Iowa, except Lots One, Two, Six and the North Half of Lots Four and Five of Block 15; and except Lots Seven through 12 inclusive of Block 18; and except Lots Three through Six and the North Half of Lot 12 in Block 19 and except Railroad Property.

The ordinance’s purpose was “to provide reasonable rules and regulations for the erection, altering and repairing of buildings of all kinds, and to provide that there shall be no use in such district except for residences, schoolhouses, churched and other similar structures.”

“No buildings or other structures, except residences, schoolhouse, churched and other similar structures shall be hereafter erected, altered, repaired or occupied within said district without first securing from the City Council a permit therefore,” the certificate stated. “No permit shall be granted when 60 percent of the real estate owners in said district residing in said City object thereto.”

Although there is no charge for these permits, plans and specifications of any proposed land use in this district, other than those (stated) shall be filed with the permit application.

In addition, “any building or structure erected, altered or repaired” in violation of this ordinance, “shall be deemed a nuisance and may be abated by appropriated proceedings in the Iowa District Court.”

Furthermore, anyone violating this ordinance “shall, upon conviction, be subject to imprisonment not exceeding 30 days or a fine not to exceed $100.”

The Akron Hometowner is sure this is just a couple “needles” in the haystack! It’ll be up to Westfield city officials to complete the search for documents and take action.

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