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Lowe v. Planning & Zoning Commission of Town of Mansfield

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 14, 2017

JANET LOWE, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
PLANNING & ZONING COMMISSION OF THE TOWN OF MANSFIELD, ET AL. Defendants.

          RULING RE: MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC NO. 73) AND MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT (DOC. NO. 84)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs Janet Lowe, Ling-Chuan Chu, Maryllyn Donna Fairfield, Helen Jane Fried, and Amin M. Keshwani (collectively “plaintiffs”) filed this lawsuit against the Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Mansfield (“PZC”) in the Superior Court for the Judicial District of Hartford on July 7, 2015. Notice of Removal (Doc. No. 1) at 1. On December 21, 2015, the plaintiffs moved to amend the Complaint, and on February 25, 2016, the proposed Amended Complaint became operative. Id. The defendants then removed the action to federal court on March 7, 2016.

         The plaintiffs moved for leave to amend the Amended Complaint on August 4, 2016. Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint and Brief in Support (Doc. No. 41). After reviewing the defendants' objections to that Motion, the court gave the plaintiffs leave to file the Second Amended Complaint. Minute Entry (Doc. No. 48). This Second Amended Complaint was filed on September 16, 2016. Second Am. Compl. (“SAC”) (Doc. No. 53). The SAC added the Town of Mansfield, Paul Shapiro, Matthew Hart, Linda Painter, JoAnn Goodwin, and Adam Lambert as defendants. Id. at 3-4.

         Now before the court is the defendants' JoAnn Godwin, Matthew Hart, Linda Painter, PZC, Paul Shapiro, and the Town of Mansfield's (collectively the “Mansfield Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss.[1] (Doc. No. 73). Seemingly in response to the Motion to Dismiss, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File 3rd [sic] Amended Complaint (“Motion to Amend”). (Doc No. 84). The plaintiffs' Motion to Amend, however, was submitted with only the first three pages of a supporting brief, and so the court was without guidance as to whether the plaintiffs intended the proposed Third Amended Complaint to moot the pending Motion to Dismiss or was instead raising new claims. See id. (ending without a signature and after the sentence “New discovery was just provided through a Motion to Comepl [sic] on September 9, 2016.”). On January 17, 2017, the court ordered the plaintiff to show cause why the unopposed Motion to Dismiss should not be granted, or in the alternative, why the proposed Amended Complaint would moot the Motion to Dismiss. Order to Show Cause (Doc. No. 90).

         The plaintiffs responded on January 30, 2017, that a grant of their Motion to Amend would moot any ambiguity in the SAC because the Third Amended Complaint contained the following clarifications: (1) a statement that the PZC's denial of certain considerations showed a reckless disregard for the rights of the plaintiffs as individuals with disabilities; (2) alleging that the failure to disclose a certified record demonstrated a civil conspiracy; (3) clarifying the role of the Mansfield defendants in that conspiracy; and (4) stating without context that “the historical and continued animus against the protected class is expanded.” Response to Order to Show Cause (Doc. No. 92) at 4. Plaintiffs simultaneously filed an Opposition to the defendants' Motion to Dismiss, to which the defendants have replied.

         For the following reasons, the defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, and the plaintiffs' Motion to Amend is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS[2]

         When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all of the allegations contained within the Complaint as true and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig., 503 F.3d 89, 95 (2d Cir. 2007). The court may consider the facts “as asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference.” Indiaweekly.com, LLC v. Nehaflix.com, Inc., 596 F.Supp.2d 497, 501 (D. Conn. 2009) (quoting McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007)).

         The plaintiffs consist of a group of individuals who live within the neighborhood of 17 Olsen Drive, Mansfield, CT (“the Property”). SAC at ¶¶ 14-17. Plaintiffs Lowe, Fried, and Fairfield are all over the age of 65. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 5, 6. Plaintiff Fried has a disability which significantly impacts a major life activity under the Americans with Disability Act. Id. at ¶ 5. Plaintiff Fairfield lives with her two disabled, elderly parents for six months out of the year. Id. at ¶ 6.

         At some point, notice was provided of a hearing on the special permit application made by Adam Lambert, and that notice did not include an intended commercial use. Id. at ¶ 19. The special permit application was granted on June 15, 2015, allowing Lambert to construct a two-bedroom efficiency unit on the Property. Id. at ¶ 20. The SAC alleges that in so granting that application, the PZC acted arbitrary and capriciously by: (1) failing to provide adequate notice of the zone change; (2) failing to follow its own conservation guidelines; (3) failing to follow the regulations which require commercial use of an efficiency unit would be based on financial need and on a plot over 40, 000 square feet, by providing notice of erroneous documents; and (4) by allowing a multi-family unit on the Property, which is not permitted within the RAR-90 Zone District. Id. at ¶ 22. Additionally, the SAC alleges that the PZC limited discussion by a PZC member regarding the financial burden requirement of the Mansfield Zoning Regulations. Id. at ¶ 24.

         The SAC alleges that the PZC would not consider the harmful impact of granting the special permit for a two-bedroom efficiency on the elderly with disabilities in the Olsen Drive neighborhood, namely that the granting of such a permit might increase the student population in the area and thereby limit the ability of the elderly with disabilities to safely walk in the area. Id. at ¶ 25. Specifically, Plaintiff Fried requested that the PZC consider the harmful effects to the elderly disabled in the neighborhood, but, the SAC alleges, the PZC denied this request and “actions of less discriminatory impacts [sic], such as referring the raised concerns to their Town [sic] Attorney were not taken.” Id. at ¶ 27.

         The SAC next alleges that the PZC's practice not to consider concerns about a special permit application has or will have “the [sic] discriminatory impact on the disabled elderly in Town [sic] by limiting their ability to obtain and retain the use of appropriate housing; this practice has or will also segregate the disabled elderly and deprive residents in Town [sic] of the opportunity to live in a disabled elderly integrated community.” Id. at ¶ 28. The SAC alleges that the elderly residents of the Olsen Drive neighborhood have apprehensions regarding walking on the street when there are student age drivers residing or visiting, “when rental, efficiency units, and multi-housing units are allowed to increase in this neighborhood that is situated in a university neighborhood and within close commuting distance to a second university and PZC negligence [sic].” Id. at ¶ 29.

         Finally, the SAC alleges that the Town of Mansfield, through its agents, certified that the complete Certified Return of Record had been provided, despite the plaintiffs' allegation that ...


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