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Correction: A previous version of the article titled “A decades-long neighborhood squabble sends University of Iowa coach Ferentz to court” misidentified the attorney representing the Ferentzes. Roger W. Stone is representing the Ferentzes. 

Kirk Ferentz may have won over Hawkeye fans in his two decades as head University of Iowa football coach, but according to testimony, that goodwill does not extend to his next-door neighbors. 

Three families who live near the Ferentz family's rural Iowa City home took Kirk and Mary Ferentz to court in Johnson County Tuesday after three years of litigation and a failure to reach an out-of-court settlement. 

Testimony from day one of the trial dug into the rocky relationship the highest-paid state employee has with his longtime neighbors. The ill will stems from a 2001 agreement to expand Saddle Club Road, which leads to the residents' rural Johnson County neighborhood.

Neighbors are asking the court for an injunction to force the Ferentzes to remove fencing and landscaping along the road, which they say blocks the stretch of roadway.

The Ferentzes disagree, arguing that if there were real issues with their property blocking the roadway over the last 20 years, there would be more photo evidence. 

"The lawsuit has been on file for three years," Roger W. Stone, Ferentz lawyer, said. "And there’s no picture of blocked access through it from the neighbor’s homes -- with just about everyone having a smart phone, access to our phones to take pictures.”

In the initial lawsuit against the Ferentzes, neighbors argued that the local coaching icon was obligated to join their HOA, per a 2001 agreement, and to pay for road maintenance as HOA members. In September of 2018, District Court Judge Kevin McKeever ruled in the Ferentzes' favor that the 2001 agreement did not obligate the couple to join the HOA started by neighbors John and Ann Marie Buatti. 

The Buattis, who moved into their home shortly before the Ferentz moved in, started the HOA in 2015 to help share the cost of road preservation. McKeever's ruling also let the Ferentzes off the hook for the share of road assessment and maintenance that the HOA tried to make the Ferentzes pay, totaling $9,400. 

The relationship with between the Ferentzes and the Buattis seems to have been contentious from the start. In testimony, John Buattis said traffic along their shared gravel road increased in 1999 when the Ferentzes moved in.

John Buatti recalled Sundays soon after the Ferentzes moved in. The Ferentzes would invite guests to catered events at their house; Buatti believed the get-togethers were meetings with coaches.

On one such Sunday, John Buatti said, he had to ask the Ferentzes to move their guests' cars so his family could leave their neighborhood for church. Buatti said he remembered the Ferentz being "very put out" at being asked to have their attendees move. 

Buatti said he also worried about the safety of his four sons, who were all under the age of seven at the time, because his family's driveway was a natural place for Ferentz's guests to turn around.  

"[My children would] be out playing, they’d be on big wheels, they’d be doing other things," John Buatti said.  "And these cars would logically kind of speed up because they’d be on this very chippy gravel road, then they’d get onto the blacktop on our driveway."

When the Buatti family applied to subdivide their 21-acre property in 2000, the Ferentz family objected out of concerns for privacy.

The 2001 agreement reached by both parties required the Buatti family to extend the road into their property to reach the 50-foot requirement for the subdivision. The Ferentzes agreed to join a homeowners association, though the parties disagreed on whether the Ferentzes had to specifically join the HOA started by the Buattis. 

The Ferentzes offered to have lawyers draw up HOA bylaws that they felt did not expand their responsibilities beyond what they had agreed to in 2001. 

In court Tuesday, John Buatti described ways that the Ferentzes have blocked the road since it has been expanded. He said the trees, extend over the road, causing him to sometimes have to trim enough for his car to pass. At one point, Buatti said he had to use a cable tie to fix the Ferentzes' privacy fence, which he described as a deer fence. 

He said at times the trees can act like a wall when snow is falling, causing build up on the road.

"The wind blows it into the trees, creates a drift along the trees, and it covers the roadway, preventing me from moving," Buattis said. "Or having me use my car. At the time I had a Sequoia; I had to use it as a battering ram." 

The Ferentzes moved to Iowa City in 1999, after Kirk Ferentz was named head football coach for UI. This year Ferentz made $5 million, according to state records, and became the winningest coach at the UI. 

Ferentzes' lawyer argued that the 2001 agreement required parking restrictions on the road, but did not put any restrictions on landscaping. 

Regardless, their lawyer argues that there were no significant road blocks caused by their landscaping.  

“They have to show substantial damage….the evidence will show no damage," Stone said. 

The trial is expected to last 2-3 days. Kirk Ferentz did not testify Tuesday.

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