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Gray v. Town of Easton

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 20, 2015

LEELAND F. GRAY, JR., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF EASTON, et al., Defendants

Page 313

For Leeland F. Gray, Jr., Kirsten Gray, 145 Eden Hill Road, LLC, Deutsch American Partners, Ltd., Gray Friesian Farm, LLC, Plaintiffs: Douglas John Varga, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lucas Bagnell Varga LLC, Southport, CT.

For Robert Maquat, Wallace Williams, Steven Carlson, Paul Dominianni, Darrin Silhavy, Milan Spisek, Robert DeVellis, Phillip Doremus, Town of Easton, Town of Easton Planning & Zoning Commission, Russell Leggett, Defendants: Maciej A. Piatkowski, Michael T. Ryan, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Ryan Ryan Deluca, LLP, Stamford, CT.

For Charlotte Stichter, Eden Hill Farm, LLC, Movants: Dennis James Kokenos, LEAD ATTORNEY, Owens, Schine & Nicola, P.C., Trumbull, CT.

For Justine Hahn, Movant: James J. Reardon, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Dewey & LeBoeuf, LLP, Hartford, CT.

For Charlotte Sharp, Movant: Nathan Zezula, LEAD ATTORNEY, Cohen & Wolf-Dnby, Danbury, CT.

For Leann Enos, Movant: Daniel B. Fitzgerald, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brody Wilkinson PC, Southport, CT.

For Timothy P. Brady, Bernadette H. Brady, Intervenors: Doug Dubitsky, LEAD ATTORNEY, North Windham, CT.

Page 314

RULING GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.

This is an equestrian equal protection case. Plaintiffs have a horse riding and boarding business in the Town of Easton, Connecticut. To their credit, plaintiffs voluntarily complied with Easton's special zoning requirements for horse business operations. In this lawsuit, however, plaintiffs allege that the town and its zoning officials have violated the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, because they have failed to investigate and enforce the same zoning requirements against other horse businesses in Easton.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment. I conclude that no genuine issue of fact remains to show that defendants acted irrationally or invidiously in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. In addition, I conclude that each of the individual defendants is entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, I will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.

Background

Plaintiffs are Leeland and Kirsten Gray as well as three companies they own and

Page 315

that are all based from the Grays' home in Easton, Connecticut. Doc. #106 at 2. Plaintiffs have named as defendants the Town of Easton, the Town of Easton Planning and Zoning Commission, the Town's zoning enforcement officer, and numerous past and present members of the Town's Planning and Zoning Commission. Doc. #1 ¶ ¶ 5-22.

In 2006, plaintiffs became interested in offering horse riding lessons and horse boarding services on their property. Id. ¶ 30; Doc. #106 at 4, 43. At the suggestion of the town's zoning enforcement officer, they went to the Planning and Zoning Commission and were told that they would need to comply with certain town regulations in order to engage in these activities. Id. at 4, 44.[1] First, they would have to own at least 10 acres of land. Second, they would have to apply for and obtain a special permit to conduct commercial horse business activities. Doc. #1 ¶ ¶ 25-28, 32; Doc. #106 at 3, 44. Plaintiffs do not dispute the wisdom or necessity of these zoning law requirements.

Plaintiffs told the Commission that they anticipated acquiring additional adjacent acreage that they were already leasing, and the Commission requested that they report back with a status update of the anticipated land acquisition during the summer of 2007. Doc. #1 ¶ 33; Doc. #106 at 4-5, 45. In July 2007, plaintiffs bought the adjacent property so that they now had more than 10 acres of land. Doc. #1 ¶ 34; Doc. #106 at 5, 45. The following month, plaintiffs updated the Commission on their purchase of the land, and they were advised that they should now apply for a special permit. Doc. #1 ¶ 35; Doc. #106 at 6, 45.

In November 2007, during a chance meeting while plaintiff Leeland Gray was at town hall, the zoning enforcement officer told him that he should apply for a special permit. Doc. #1 ΒΆ 36; Doc. #106 at 7, 45-46. Although plaintiffs were already conducting horse business operations on their property, they were not formally ordered to apply for a special permit; nor were they ordered to cease and desist their ongoing horse business operations ...


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