Case Name: TSB Holdings, LLC v. Board of Adjustment for Iowa City
TSB Holdings, LLC v. City of Iowa City

Filed: June 1, 2018, Supreme Court of Iowa (No. 15-1373/16-0988)

Subject matter: Statute of limitations under Iowa Code § 614.1(6) for challenge to actions related to 1987 court ordered injunction.

TSB Holdings challenged the City of Iowa City’s zoning ordinances and the Board of Adjustment’s refusal to grant a variance, which precluded TSB from constructing apartment buildings on property near downtown Iowa City.  The property in question was the subject of a 1987 Supreme Court decision, in which the Court enjoined the City of Iowa City from prohibiting use of the property as proposed by its then-current owner to construct four apartment buildings.  The district court rejected the challenges, finding the zoning ordinances proper as a matter of legislative authority and that the Board of Adjustment’s actions did not violate the prior injunction because TSB was not a “successor”. The Court of Appeals, relying on the recent Supreme Court decision of Dakota, Minnesota, & Eastern Railroad v. Iowa District Court, 898 N.W.2d 127 (Iowa 2017), affirmed the district court on the basis that TSB’s challenges, premised on the 1987 injunction, were untimely under Iowa Code § 614.1(6), which provides: “Actions may be brought within the times herein limited, respectively, after their causes accrue, and not afterwards, except when otherwise specially declared: . . . . 6. Judgments of courts of record. Those founded on a judgment of a court of record, whether of this or of any other of the United States, or of the federal courts of the United States, within twenty years, except that a time period limitation shall not apply to an action to recover a judgment for child support, spousal support, or a judgment of distribution of marital assets.”  Dakota held that § 614.1(6) is a statute of repose, not a statute of limitations, such that an action to enforce a judgment more than 20 years after it was entered was untimely.

In TSB, the Supreme Court on further review “overrule[d] Dakota and h[e]ld that the limitations period in Iowa Code section 614.1(6) runs from the date when the cause of action accrues, which in the case of an injunction may be the date when the violation of the injunction occurs. This does not mean that all injunctions are permanent. Dakota may have reached the correct result on its facts because it appears the relevant portions of the injunction were not permanent. They required specific action at the time—‘continuing to allow the flowage of Whiskey Creek upon plaintiffs’ land’ and ‘reconstruct[ing] the collapsed dike in order to channel the Creek under Bridge 110’—not forever. Dakota, 898 N.W.2d at 132. Thus, contempt was improper not because the statute of limitations for contempt had run, but because the underlying provisions that were the basis for contempt had expired.”  The current actions accrued in 2013, when the City adopted the ordinance and the Board of adjustment refused to grant a variance, and were this timely.

On the merits, the Supreme Court held the City properly enacted the ordinance, but the Board of Adjustment violated the prior injunction in refusing to grant a variance to allow construction of the apartment buildings.

Dana L. Oxley
Dana Oxley is Counsel at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C. Dana uses her writing and research experience in motion work and appellate work.