United States District Court, D. Connecticut
62-64 Kenyon St. Hartford, LLC and Paul Rosow Plaintiffs
City of Hartford Defendant.
RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
62-64 Kenyon Street Hartford, LLC (“Rooming
House”), is a Connecticut limited liability company
that has operated a rooming house at 62-64 Kenyon Street in
Hartford, Connecticut since 1960. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶1,
¶6. Co-Plaintiff Paul Rosow (“Mr. Rosow”)
manages the Rooming House and owns the property. Id.
at ¶3, ¶9. Defendant, City of Hartford
(“Hartford” or “City”), is a
municipality organized under the laws of the State of
Connecticut and is empowered to grant licenses to rooming
house operators. Id. at ¶5. The Plaintiffs
challenge an ordinance passed by the City in July 2015, which
requires proof of owner occupancy as a prerequisite for
rooming house licenses.
City argues that the case is moot because a revised zoning
map, which the City passed in January 2016, rendered the
allegedly unconstitutional owner occupancy requirement
unenforceable. Mr. Rosow argues that the case is not moot
because the City may attempt to enforce the allegedly illegal
ordinance, and also because their claims for damages-nominal
damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages and legal
fees-prevents dismissal for mootness. For the reasons that
follow, the Defendant's motion is DENIED.
Municipal Code defines a rooming house as “any
residential structure” for which the principal purpose
“is to provide lodging, but not meals, for
compensation, by pre-arrangement for definite periods, for
three or more persons.” Compl., ¶7. The City of
Hartford requires licenses for businesses that operate
rooming houses. Id. at ¶5.
Rosow owns and manages the Rooming House. Compl., ¶3,
¶9. He has lived in Scottsdale, AZ since 2014. Compl.,
¶3. He lived in Hartford, but not at the Rooming House,
from 1986 to 2014. Id. at ¶4. Since 1986, he
has appointed a designated agent to reside in the rooming
house. Id. at ¶9. Because the designated agent
lived at the Rooming House, Mr. Rosow was able to receive a
license for the Rooming House from the City, although he
himself did not live there. Id. Plaintiffs have held
a valid license for the property's use as a rooming house
since 1987. R. 26(f) Report (Stmt. Undisputed Facts),
¶4. Plaintiffs' most recent rooming house license
was valid through June 30, 2016. Compl., ¶10.
point before July 13, 2015, Mr. Rosow secured a buyer for the
Rooming House. Compl., ¶65. The buyer planned to operate
the property as a rooming house in the same manner as Mr.
Rosow had, and offered to pay Mr. Rosow in excess of $375,
000. Id. On July 13, 2015, Hartford enacted an
ordinance amending Ch. 18, Art. VII of the City's
Municipal Code relating to rooming houses (“the
Ordinance”). Id. at ¶53. Sec. 18-164 of
the Ordinance provides:
The licensee who obtains a license under this Article shall
reside in the rooming house. In the R-6, R-7, and R-8 zoning
districts, no license or license renewal shall be issued to a
licensee who is not the owner or majority owner of the
property. A licensee who is not the owner of the real shall
have a valid power of attorney from the owner, not more than
one (1) year old, which gives the licensee authority to do
all things necessary to manage and operate the rooming house,
including, without limitation, to collect, deposit and spend
the rents from roomers, to pay bills, to make repairs, to
correct violations, and to allow inspections of the premises.
Id. at ¶55; See also Compl. Ex. 26. Sec. 18-164
would go into effect on June 30, 2016. Id. at
¶59. Sec. 18-164 only applied to certain residential
districts in the City, which were designated on the
City's zoning Map as R-6, R-7 and R-8. Id.
Rooming houses in other parts of the City were not affected
by the Ordinance and did not need to be owner-occupied to get
a license. See R 26(f) zoning districts and was thus the only
rooming house affect Sec 18-164. Id.
In October 2015, Mr. Rosow corresponded by e-mail with
Hartford's Corporation Counsel, Henri Alexandre, about
the Ordinance. Id. at ¶58. Mr. Alexandre told
Mr. Rosow that because of the Ordinance, Mr. Rosow could not
get a rooming house license unless he moved onto the
property, and could not meet the residency requirement using
a resident agent with power of attorney on behalf of Mr.
Rosow. Ex. 1 to Rosow Aff., Oct. 6 e-mail from Henri
Alexandre, ECF No. 25-2.
Rosow alleges that City officials passed the Ordinance in
response to complaints from the West End Civic Association
(“WECA”), an unincorporated group of residents of
the neighborhood near the Rooming House. Compl.,
¶¶11-16. At some point in late 2015, Mr. Rosow made
a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request of
the City. Rosow Aff., ¶¶13-14. The response
revealed e-mail correspondence between WECA and City
employees regarding Rosow's rooming house. Id.
at ¶15. See also Compl., ¶11.
the results of his FOIA request, Mr. Rosow alleges that WECA
members began to complain about the rooming house to City
officials and employees as early as 2011, mounting a
several-year campaign to eliminate the Rooming House as a
blight on their single-family neighborhood. Compl., ¶11.
Mr. Rosow also alleges that members of WECA urged the
City's Director of Licenses & Inspections to conduct
“surprise inspections” of his property, at one
point requiring Mr. Rosow's agent to provide photo
identification to the inspector. Id. at
¶¶22-23. Eventually, Mr. Rosow alleges, WECA
members encouraged City Council members to pass an ordinance
specifically targeting rooming houses with non-resident
owners, based on their knowledge that Mr. Rosow lived in
Arizona. Compl., ¶35. Mr. Rosow alleges that WECA urged
the City to deny the Rooming House's license “in
furtherance of its goal to eliminate low-income minorities in
need of short term housing” from the neighborhood.
Id. at 11.
8, 2015, the City Council's Agenda contained a bill
regarding rooming houses sponsored by Hartford's former
Mayor. Compl., ¶33. In the days that followed, members
of WECA allegedly campaigned against the bill because it
would not specifically require Mr. Rosow to reside at the
Rooming House as a condition of the license. Id. at
34. WECA allegedly corresponded with the City Council
President urging the passage of a revised bill that would
specifically target rooming houses with non-resident owners.
Id. at 36. Members of WECA also met with the
City's Corporation Counsel and the Office of Licenses
& Inspections regarding the “perceived
deficiencies” of the rooming house bill. Id.
at ¶¶37-42. The Corporation Counsel expressed some
concern about the legality of the bill. Id.
13, 2015, the Plaintiffs allege that a certain WECA member
wrote an e-mail to the former Mayor of Hartford stating that
he was displeased that Corporation Counsel “made
matters worse” by expressing concern about the legal
implications of WECA's proposed owner occupancy
requirement. Id. at ¶41. At that point, the
Corporation Counsel ...