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Santos v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Town of Stratford

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 11, 2017

ANTHONY SANTOS
v.
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF THE TOWN OF STRATFORD ET AL.

          Argued February 2, 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Radcliffe, J.

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for, inter alia, the alleged taking by inverse condemnation of certain of the plaintiff's real property, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield and tried to the court, Radcliffe, J.; judgment for the defendants, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Ian Angus Cole, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Sean R. Plumb, for the appellees (defendants).

          Sheldon, Mullins and Beach, Js.

         SYLLABUS

         The plaintiff landowner brought this action against the defendant town and its zoning board of appeals alleging that, by denying certain requested variances that would have allowed him to construct a home on certain of his real property, the defendants had taken his property through inverse condemnation and had been unjustly enriched thereby. The trial court rendered judgment for the defendants, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Held that the trial court properly determined that the plaintiff had failed to prove his claim for inverse condemnation: the plaintiff's claim that he had a reasonable investment-backed expectation of use of the property that was thwarted by the defendants' regulations was unavailing, as he conceded that the difficulty occasioned by the deficient width of the building lot could be remedied with little expense by adjusting the building line and inserting a certain limitation in his deed and, accordingly, the application of the zoning regulations did not amount to a practical confiscation of the property or infringe on the plaintiff's reasonable investment-backed expectations of use and enjoyment of the property; moreover, there was no merit to the plaintiff's claim that the defendants had been unjustly enriched by preventing him from developing his property, which abutted certain open space owned by the town, this court having determined that the application of the town's regulations did not result in a taking of the plaintiff's property.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

          The plaintiff, Anthony Santos, appeals from the judgment of the trial court in favor of the defendants, the town of Stratford (town) and its Zoning Board of Appeals (board). On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the court improperly held that the plaintiff had failed to prove his claims for (1) inverse condemnation and (2) unjust enrichment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as found by the court or not contested, are relevant to this appeal. The plaintiff purchased an unimproved parcel of land in Stratford at a tax sale conducted by the town in May, 2002. The prior owner had owned the property for approximately seventeen years, but had never attempted to develop the property. The town had never formally approved the property as a building lot. In noticing the sale of the property, the town included a warning that the property had not been guaranteed to be buildable under the town's current zoning regulations. The property was sold to the plaintiff for approximately one half of its assessed value, and the prior owner made no attempt to exercise his right to redeem the property in the six months following the sale.

         After the sale was complete, the plaintiff attempted to develop the property as a residential building lot. Because the property contained wetlands, the plaintiff applied for a permit from the town's Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission. He then learned that two variances were required in order to build a home on the lot. One variance was required in order to construct a building near wetlands, and another was required because the lot, by application of the zoning regulations, [1] did not meet the lot width requirement set forth in those regulations. The board denied the requested variances, noting that because the plaintiff's predecessor in title had created the plaintiff's lot in a way that did not conform to the town's zoning regulations, the board lacked the power to grant a variance. The plaintiff appealed, and the trial court affirmed the board's decision, reasoning that the plaintiff had failed to establish that the denial of the variance would cause him an unusual hardship. The plaintiff appealed to this court, and this court affirmed. See Santos v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 100 Conn.App. 644, 918 A.2d 303, cert. denied, 282 Conn. 930, 926 A.2d 669 (2007).

         In 2004, while his appeal from the board's decision was pending, the plaintiff commenced the present action against the defendants alleging that the act of denying the requested variances by the board (1) constituted a taking of his property through inverse condemnation; and (2) resulted in the town's unjust enrichment. The trial court rendered judgment[2] for the defendants, holding that (1) the plaintiff failed to establish his claim for inverse condemnation, in large part because he had failed to demonstrate that he had a reasonable ...


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