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Caruso v. Zoning Board of Appeals of City of Meriden

Supreme Court of Connecticut

February 2, 2016

DOMINICK CARUSO ET AL.
v.
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF THE CITY OF MERIDEN ET AL

         Argued October 5, 2015.

Page 242

          Appeal from the decision of the named defendant granting an application for a variance to the defendant Mark Development, LLC, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven and tried to the court, A. Robinson, J.; judgment sustaining the appeal in part and remanding the case to the named defendant for further proceedings, from which, on the granting of certification, the defendant Mark Development, LLC, appealed and the plaintiffs cross appealed to the Appellate Court, Beach, Bear and Borden, Js., which reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case with direction to sustain the plaintiffs' appeal, and the defendant Mark Development, LLC, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court.

          SYLLABUS

         The plaintiffs, the city of Meriden and two of its zoning officers, appealed to the trial court from the decision of the defendant Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Meriden granting a variance to the defendant M Co. allowing it to operate a used car dealership on a certain parcel of real property. The trial court rendered judgment sustaining the plaintiffs' appeal in part and remanding the case to the board for further proceedings concluding that, although substantial evidence supported the board's conclusion that the property had been practically confiscated by the applicable zoning regulations, one member of the board should have disqualified himself from the proceedings due to a conflict of interest. Thereafter, M Co. appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court arguing that the trial court improperly concluded that the board member should have disqualified himself and, therefore, improperly remanded the case to the board. The plaintiffs cross appealed claiming, inter alia, that the trial court had improperly determined that substantial evidence supported the board's finding of practical confiscation. The Appellate Court concluded that M Co. had failed to prove practical confiscation before the board and, accordingly, reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case with direction to sustain the plaintiffs' appeal. From that judgment, M Co., on the granting of certification, appealed to this court. Held that the Appellate Court properly reversed the judgment of the trial court, M Co. having failed to prove practical confiscation because it did not demonstrate that the property had been deprived of all reasonable use and value under the regulations and, therefore, the board could not reasonably have concluded that the regulations had greatly decreased or practically destroyed the property's value for any of the uses to which it could reasonably be put; the evidence contained within the record in this case did not indicate that the property was unfit for any of the permitted uses because of a peculiar characteristic of the land, and did not squarely address or negate some of the permitted uses, and M Co. provided no specific information regarding the value of the property other than M Co.'s own purchase price, and provided no information on its efforts to market, sell, or develop the property for any permitted use.

         Daniel J. Krisch, with whom was Dennis A. Ceneviva, for the appellant (defendant Mark Development, LLC).

         Joseph P. Williams, with whom was Beth Bryan Critton, for the appellees (plaintiffs).

         Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js. ROBINSON, J. In this opinion the other justices concurred.

          OPINION

Page 243

         [320 Conn. 316] ROBINSON, J.

         This certified appeal arises from the decision of the named defendant, the Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Meriden (board), to grant a variance to the defendant Mark Development, LLC,[1] to use a certain parcel of real property, located in a regional development zone, as a used car dealership, on the ground that the property has been practically confiscated. The defendant appeals,[2] upon our grant of its [320 Conn. 317] petition for certification, from the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court and remanding the case with direction to sustain the appeal of the plaintiffs, the city of Meriden (city), Dominick Caruso,[3] and James Anderson,[4] from the board's decision granting the variance. Caruso v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 150 Conn.App. 831, 832-33, 93 A.3d 617 (2014). On appeal, the defendant claims that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that: (1) substantial evidence did not support the board's conclusion that the property had been practically confiscated; and (2) evidence of the property's diminution in value was required. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

         The record reveals the following facts and procedural history. In 2003, the defendant purchased an approximately forty-eight acre parcel in Meriden for more than one million dollars.[5] The property is located in an area zoned as a " 'Regional Development District'" (development district). Id., 833. The Meriden Zoning Regulations (regulations),[6] provide that, six uses are permitted " by right" on such properties. Meriden Zoning

Page 244

Regs., § 213-26.2 (C) (1) (a) (1) through (6) (2008). These uses include: conference center hotels; executive offices; research and development; medical centers; colleges or universities accredited by the state; and distribution facilities combined with executive offices or research [320 Conn. 318] and development.[7] Id. The regulations further provide that " [n]o building or premises may be used, in whole or in part, for any purpose except those listed . . . ." Id., § 213-26.2 (C) (1). The stated purpose of the development district, created in 1986, is to " further the economic base of the city by providing for development of a regional scale along the interstate highway system, in an attractive, efficient, [and] environmentally sensitive campus setting." Id., § 213-26.2 (A). Two other properties in Meriden are zoned as part of the development district, one of which contains the Midstate Medical Center, the other of which is owned by the state.

         In August, 2008, the defendant applied to the board for a variance seeking permission to use its property for a used car dealership. The defendant claimed that the regulations " drastically [reduce the property's] value for any of the uses to which it could reasonably be put, and/or the effect of applying the regulations is so severe as to amount to a practical confiscation." At a public hearing on September 2, 2008, the defendant submitted, inter alia, an appraiser's report and a letter from a local attorney in support of its variance application.[8] Immediately following the hearing, the board granted the variance by a four to one vote.[9]

          [320 Conn. 319] The plaintiffs appealed from the board's decision to the trial court, claiming, inter alia, that the defendant failed to demonstrate that the regulations had caused a practical confiscation of the property and that one board member should have disqualified himself from the proceedings due to a purported conflict of interest.[10] The trial court concluded that substantial evidence supported the board's conclusion that the property had been practically confiscated, noting that the property had been vacant and unused for nearly thirty years and cannot practically be used in any of the ways contemplated within the development district. The court nonetheless sustained the plaintiffs' appeal in part on the alternative ground that one board member should have disqualified himself from considering the defendant's variance application because of his personal relationship

Page 245

with the defendant's attorney. Accordingly, the trial court rendered judgment sustaining the plaintiffs' appeal in part and remanded the case to the board for further proceedings.

         The defendant appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court, arguing that the trial court improperly concluded that the board member should have disqualified himself from the proceedings and, therefore, improperly remanded the case for further proceedings.[11]Caruso v. Zoning Board of Appeals, supra, 150 Conn.App. 833. The plaintiffs cross appealed, asserting that the trial court improperly determined that [320 Conn. 320] substantial evidence supported the defendant's practical confiscation claim, but properly sustained their appeal on the disqualification ground. Id. The Appellate Court agreed with the plaintiffs in part, holding that the defendant failed to prove practical confiscation before the board. Id., 838, 841. The court stated that substantial evidence did not support the board's conclusion that the property had been deprived of all reasonable uses because the defendant offered no evidence of the current value of the property or its efforts to market, sell, or develop the property for any permitted use within the ...


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