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Martin v. Town of Simsbury

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 2, 2017

TIMOTHY G. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF SIMSBURY, ET AL. Defendants,

          RULING RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 25)

          JANET C. HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Timothy Martin, brings this action against the defendants, the Town of Simsbury, Hiram Peck, Howard Beach, Michael Glidden, Margery C.B. Winters, Darren Cunningham, Jason Levy, Craig MacCormac, Jim Morrison, Donna Beinstein, and Donald Reiger (“defendants”), alleging federal constitutional claims of a regulatory taking and violations of substantive and procedural due process and equal protection under sections 1983, 1985, and 1988 of title 42 of the United States Code, as well as state law claims of intentional infliction of emotion distress, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and inverse condemnation. Am. Compl. This action arises from Martin's interactions with the Simsbury Zoning Board regarding his desire to build a single-family home on a parcel of land.

         The defendants bring this Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 25) under Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction over the Amended Complaint, insufficient service of process as to defendant Beach, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Def.'s Mem. of Law in Support of Mot. to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”) at 1 (Doc. No. 25-1). They argue, inter alia, that Martin's claim is not yet ripe for review because he has failed to obtain a final decision from the relevant zoning authority. Id. at 1-2.

         Because the court concludes that it has no subject matter jurisdiction over Martin's claims because he has not sought and received a final decision from the relevant authorities, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         When considering a motion to dismiss due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), the court “must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint, but [the Court is] not to draw inferences from the complaint favorable” to the party asserting jurisdiction. J.S. ex rel. N.S. v. Attica Cent. Schs., 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004).

         The following facts are alleged in the Amended Complaint and, as such, the court accepts them as true for the purposes of deciding the Motion to Dismiss. Id. Martin owns a parcel of land (“the Property”) in Simsbury, Connecticut, which was designated by the Simsbury Assessor's Map D03, Block 208, Lot 003A. Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 12) at ¶ 2. The lot was created under the “Free/First Cut” section of the Simsbury Zoning Regulations. Id. at ¶ 4. Former Simsbury Compliance Officer and defendant, Howard Beach (“Beach”) helped design the map for the land split, and subsequently approved and signed the map before it was filed in the Town Clerk's office as Town of Simsbury map #3976 (“map”). Id. The Property was then appraised by the Town Assessor at a value of $118, 000, and subsequently taxed at approximately $3, 200 per year. Id. at ¶ 7.

         On some unspecified date, Martin applied to the Farmington Valley Health District (“FVHD”) for a septic permit on the Property. Id. at ¶ 10. The FVHD and the defendants then demanded that Martin “unnecessarily” redesign the proposed system several times, which he did. Id. at ¶ 11. The FVHD and the defendants still rejected his septic permit application because they claimed that his soil test results were erroneous. Id. The FVHD and the defendants rejected Martin's offer to retest the soil on the condition that the FVHD would issue the septic permit if the second test had a consistent result. Id. at ¶ 12. Martin appealed to the State of Connecticut Health Department, with the result that Martin retested the soil in the presence of an indifferent sanitarian, the Town of Simsbury attorney, and the engineer who did the original tests. Id. at ¶ 13. The test results were consistent with his original tests, and the septic permit was issued. Id. Martin alleges that no other applicant was ever forced to go to such lengths or expense to verify the accuracy of soil tests performed by licensed engineers. Id.

         Next, Martin alleges that the Town and Beach informed Martin by letter on January 30, 2015, that, although the official approved inland wetlands map for the Town of Simsbury did not place the Property on wetlands, they would not issue a building permit until Martin had conducted a full wetlands investigation of the Property. Id. at ¶ 14. Martin alleges that there are no inland wetlands on or near the Property according to the official inland wetlands map. Id. at ¶ 16. The Town of Simsbury, Michael Glidden (“Glidden”), the Zoning Enforcement Officer, Hiram Peck, the Town Planner, and Beach were aware of an unofficial and unapproved map of the wetlands for years, but Martin alleges that he was the only person that they ever imposed it on. Id. at ¶¶ 5, 7, 18, 20. Martin spent several months pleading with them that it was unfair and unconstitutional to make him test for wetlands when no one else in the area had to do so. Id. at ¶ 19.

         Beach retired, and his successor, Glidden, also required Martin to conduct a full wetlands investigation of the Property. Id. at ¶ 20. Martin alleges that at least dozens, if not hundreds, of lots in the town were developed with the approval of Beach, Glidden, and Peck as their supervisor, and despite their location on the unofficial wetland map. Id. at ¶ 21. These other individuals were not required to do a wetlands investigation because their property was not located on the official inland wetlands map. Id.

         Instead of performing a wetlands investigation, Martin chose to apply for a building permit. Id. at ¶ 22. Glidden responded to the application March 4, 2015, insisting that Martin do the wetlands testing before a building permit could issue, but also informing Martin that the Property was not, in fact, a building lot. Id. Glidden determined that the Property had never been approved as a building lot because it lacked the required 200 feet of street frontage. Id. at ¶ 36. Glidden's letter also threatened criminal action against Martin for advertising to sell the Property because it was an unapproved lot. Id. Martin filed an appeal of Glidden's rejection, first with the Inland Wetlands Agency for the Town of Simsbury, and then with the Connecticut State Superior Court, but both denied the appeal. Id. at ¶ 24-25. The Superior Court dismissed Martin's case because he had not exhausted all available administrative remedies. Id. at ¶ 25; see, also, Martin v. Town of Simsbury, No. CV 155039449, 2016 WL 673417 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 26, 2016) (holding that Martin did not take advantage of the process to determine whether or not his activity was regulated such that he required a wetland permit and so he had not exhausted his administrative remedies).

         On April 11, 2016, Martin requested that the Town of Simsbury Conservation Commission (“the Commission”) give him a definitive answer as to whether his application would be considered under the unofficial inland wetlands map. Id. at ¶ 32. Martin alleges that the Conservation Commission, and defendants Winters, Cunningham, Levy, MacCormac, Morrison, Beinstein, and Reiger voted to evaluate the Property under the unofficial inlands wetland map, and admitted that the official/approved map was erroneous and they were acting contrary to law. Id. at ¶ 33. Martin was unaware of any appeal process from this decision, and letters to the Town of Simsbury Attorney and the Conservation Committee received no response. Id. at ¶ 35. Importantly, the Amended Complaint does not allege that Martin requested that the Commission determine whether or not his activity would have a significant impact such that he need not apply for a permit, or what the consequence of evaluating the Property using the unofficial map were. See Town of Simsbury Inland Wetlands Regulations, Section 7.1, 7.4.1 (2013) (describing the wetlands permit application process).

         Finally, Martin filed an appeal of Glidden's decision that the lot was not a legal building lot with the Town of Simsbury Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”). Id. at ¶ 39. The ZBA affirmed Glidden's decision. Id. at ΒΆ 44. The defendants suggested that Martin merge the Property with a neighboring property, or ...


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