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Mandable v. Planning and Zoning Commission

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 16, 2017


          Argued January 4, 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, Genuario, J.

          Alan R. Spirer, for the appellants (plaintiffs).

          Peter V. Gelderman, for the appellees (named defendant et al.).

          Daniel J. Krisch, with whom, on the brief, was Eric D. Bernheim, for the appellees (defendant Norman Kramer et al.).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Prescott and Lavery, Js.


          LAVERY, J.

         The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether two lot line adjustment maps were improperly recorded in the Westport land records by the defendants Norman Kramer and Karen Kramer (Kramers) because the maps qualify as ‘‘resubdivisions, '' as that term is defined in General Statutes § 8-18, [1] and thus required approval by the defendant Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Westport (commission) to be valid. The plaintiffs, J. Burke Mandable and Paula K. Mandable, appeal from the judgment of the trial court denying their request for declaratory relief and dismissing their appeal from the decision of the commission, in which the commission declined to consider their challenge to two maps that the Kramers recorded with approval from the defendant Laurence Bradley, the planning and zoning director of Westport, but not from the commission.[2] On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the trial court erred in concluding that the Kramers were not required to obtain the commission's approval because their maps were not ‘‘resubdivisions'' under § 8-18. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.[3]

         The following facts, as found by the court in its memorandum of decision, and procedural history are pertinent to this appeal. In 1929, before the town of Westport (town) adopted subdivision regulations, a map numbered 682 (1929 map) was filed in the Westport Land Records. The 1929 map encompassed the properties now known as 10 Wakeman Road and 11 Wakeman Road in Westport. The plaintiffs own 11 Wakeman Road and the Kramers own 10 Wakeman Road.

         In 2010, the Kramers submitted a map to Bradley for his review. The map purported to consolidate two parcels of land into a single lot at 10 Wakeman Road. In accordance with § 45-10 of the Westport Zoning Regulations, [4] Bradley signed and dated the map, making it eligible for recording in the land records, and affixed it with the following notation: ‘‘[T]his plan is neither a subdivision nor a resubdivision as defined by the General Statutes of Connecticut and the [town] and may be recorded without prior approval of the [commission]. This stamp allows this map to be filed in the Westport Land Records. The presence of this stamp is not an endorsement of the accuracy of the map by the [town] or any board, commission, agency or official agent or employee of the town.'' The map was recorded in the land records in June, 2010. In 2013, the Kramers submitted a second map to Bradley for his review, which purported to divide 10 Wakeman Road into two lots. Bradley signed, dated, and stamped the map with the same notation, and the map was recorded in May, 2013.

         In January, 2014, after learning of the two lot line adjustment maps, the plaintiffs filed with the commission a ‘‘Petition for Determination of Re-Subdivision for Property Located at 10 Wakeman Road, Westport, Connecticut'' (petition). In a letter dated January 20, 2014, the commission refused to consider the petition on the grounds that the plaintiffs' opportunity to appeal Bradley's actions ‘‘expired long ago'' and that it was ‘‘unaware of any authority'' upon which to consider the petition.

         The plaintiffs filed a two count amended complaint against the defendants in the trial court. The first count appealed the commission's refusal to consider their petition.[5] The second count sought a declaratory judgment determining that, inter alia, the maps recorded by the Kramers were ‘‘resubdivisions'' under § 8-18 and, therefore, required approval by the commission.[6]

         The court rejected the plaintiffs' statutory argument in a memorandum of decision dated June 4, 2015. Relying on the plain language of § 8-18, the trial court determined that ‘‘there can be no ‘resubdivision' unless there has first been a ‘subdivision, ' and the division of land prior to the adoption of subdivision regulations is not a subdivision.'' The court concluded that because the Kramers' maps did not modify a subdivision-that is, they altered the 1929 map that had been filed prior to the town's adoption of subdivision regulations-they were not resubdivisions and, therefore, did not require the commission's approval to be valid. Therefore, the court dismissed the plaintiffs' appeal and denied their request for declaratory relief.[7]

         The plaintiffs claim that the court misconstrued § 8-18 in determining that the term ‘‘resubdivision'' did not encompass the Kramers' maps. Specifically, the plaintiffs contend that § 8-18 defines ‘‘resubdivision'' to include not only changes to maps of approved subdivisions, but also to changes to recorded maps that do not qualify as subdivisions because they were recorded before the town's subdivision regulations were adopted. The defendants respond that, ...

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