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Lawrence v. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

December 12, 2017

ROBERT H. LAWRENCE, JR.
v.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

          Argued October 12, 2017

          James R. Fogarty, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Sharon M. Seligman, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Matthew I. Levine, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (defendant).

          John P. Casey, with whom, on the brief, were Evan J. Seeman and Andrew A. DePeau, for the appellee (intervenor 16 Highgate Road, LLC).

          Lavine, Elgo and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         The plaintiff, Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing his administrative appeal from the decision of the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection (commissioner) granting the application of 16 High-gate Road, LLC (Highgate), to construct a residential dock and pier. The plaintiff claims that the court improperly concluded that (1) he was not classically aggrieved by the commissioner's decision, (2) he was statutorily aggrieved under General Statutes § 22a-19 only with respect to his claim of visual degradation, (3) the commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record and (4) the commissioner's decision complied with all applicable laws and regulations. We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.[1]

         The facts relevant to this appeal are not in dispute. In 2012, Highgate filed an application with the defendant, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (department), through its office of Long Island Sound Programs, for a permit to construct a residential dock and pier adjacent to waterfront property known as 16 Highgate Road in Greenwich. While that application was pending, the plaintiff intervened pursuant to § 22a-19 (a).[2] Following an evidentiary hearing that spanned six days, Kenneth M. Collette, a hearing officer with the department, issued a proposed final decision approving the application, subject to certain modifications. The plaintiff subsequently filed twenty-six exceptions to that proposed decision and requested argument thereon. The commissioner heard arguments from interested parties on January 20, 2015. The commissioner thereafter issued a final decision, in which he determined that the proposed activity complied with all applicable statutes and regulations, and would not unreasonably pollute, impair, or destroy the public trust in the air, water or other natural resources of the state.[3]

         Pursuant to General Statutes § 4-183, the plaintiff appealed from that decision to the Superior Court. Following a hearing, the court rendered judgment dismissing the appeal. In so doing, the court determined that the plaintiff had not established that he was classically aggrieved by the decision of the commissioner. The court also emphasized, consistent with well established precedent, that standing to bring an appeal pursuant to § 22a-19 is limited to environmental issues only. See Pond View, LLC v. Planning & Zoning Commission, 288 Conn. 143, 157, 953 A.2d 1 (2008) (‘‘an intervenor's standing pursuant to § 22a-19 strictly is limited to challenging only environmental issues''). After scrutinizing the allegations of the plaintiff's complaint, the court concluded that the plaintiff lacked such statutory aggrievement in all respects, except for his claim of visual degradation. The court then reviewed the administrative record and concluded that it contained substantial evidence to support the commissioner's decision on that claim. It further concluded that the plaintiff had not demonstrated that the commissioner failed to comply with any applicable law or regulation. From that judgment, the plaintiff appealed to this court.

         Our examination of the record and briefs and our consideration of the arguments of the parties persuade us that the judgment should be affirmed. On the facts of this case, the issues properly were resolved in the court's well reasoned memorandum of decision. See Lawrence v. Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection, Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Land Use Litigation Docket, Docket No. CV-15-6066232-S (July 18, 2016) (reprinted at 178 Conn.App.). We therefore adopt it as the proper statement of the relevant facts, issues, and applicable law, as it would serve no useful purpose for us to repeat the discussion contained therein. See Citizens Against Overhead Power Line Construction v. Connecticut Siting Council, 311 Conn. 259, 262, 86 A.3d 463 (2014); Pellecchia v. Killingly, 147 Conn.App. 299, 301-302, 80 A.3d 931 (2013).

         The judgment is affirmed.

---------

Notes:

[1] In hearing administrative appeals such as the present one, the Superior Court acts as an appellate body. See General Statutes § 4-183 (j); see also Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone v.Connecticut Siting Council, 286 Conn. 57, 85, 942 A.2d 345 (2008) (noting that Superior Court sits ‘‘in an appellate capacity'' when reviewing administrative appeal); Par Developers, Ltd. v.Planning & Zoning Commission, 37 Conn.App. 348, 353, 655 A.2d 1164 (1995) (distinguishing administrative appeals in ...


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