United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JANET LOWE, et al. Plaintiffs,
PLANNING & ZONING COMMISSION OF THE TOWN OF MANSFIELD, et al. Defendants.
RULING RE: MOTIONS TO DISMISS (DOC. NOS. 118 &
C. Hall United States District Judge
Janet Lowe, Amin M. Keshwani, Ling-Chuan Chu, Helen Jane
Fried, and Maryllyn Donna Fairfield (collectively
“plaintiffs”) bring this action against the Town
of Mansfield, the Town of Mansfield Planning and Zoning
Commission (“PZC”), Paul Shapiro, Matthew Hart,
Linda M. Painter, and JoAnn Painter (“Mansfield
defendants”) for alleged deprivations of rights under
the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and municipal zoning
regulations arising from the procedure used to approve a
special permit application for a two-bedroom efficiency unit.
Plaintiffs also bring a claim for private nuisance against
Adam Lambert (“Lambert”), the owner of the
residence that won approval from the PZC.
Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 116) alleges violations of
section 8-23 of the Connecticut General Statutes,
“Preparation, Amendment or Adoption of Plan of
Conservation and Development” (Count One); violations
of the right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth
Amendment pursuant to section 1983 of title 42 of the United
States Code (Count Two); and violations of the Fair Housing
Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3604, and section
1982 of title 42 of the United States Code (Count Three)
against the Mansfield defendants. The Fourth Amendment
Complaint also brings a claim for private nuisance against
Lambert (Count Four).
moved to dismiss Count Four (Doc. No. 118) and the Mansfield
defendants moved to dismiss Counts One, Two, and Three (Doc.
No. 119). For the reasons that follow, both Motions to
Dismiss are granted and the Fourth Amendment Complaint is
dismissed in its entirety.
live in the neighborhood of Mulberry Village in the Town of
Mansfield, Connecticut. 4th Am. Compl. at ¶ 1. Janet
Lowe, Helen Jane Fried, and Maryllyn Donna Fairfield are over
the age of 65 and have disabilities as defined by the FHA.
Id. at ¶¶ 7, 10, 11. Amin M. Keshwani and
Ling-Chuan Chu also reside in Mulberry Village. Id.
at ¶¶ 8, 9.
7, 2015, Adam Lambert submitted a special permit application
for a two-bedroom efficiency unit in Mulberry Village, which
is zoned as a single-family district. Id. at ¶
26. According to a zoning agent, the application was the
first two-bedroom efficiency unit request in over twenty
years. Id. at ¶ 26. The Zoning Regulations of
the Town of Mansfield, Article X, Section L1 govern
consideration of applications for efficiency units.
Id. at ¶ 27. The statement of purpose provides:
This amendment will meet an identified need to provide
housing for immediate family members, usually the parent(s)
of either spouse. In addition, it will also allow young
individuals, or couples another housing option when unable to
purchase houses, given the rapid and expected continued
increase in the price of the conventional single-family unit.
The efficiency unit may also act as a source of income
for financially overburdened families (emphasis
added). It also may allow the elderly to continue to live in
their own homes knowing there is someone else on the premises
in case of emergency.
Id. Lambert's application did not state that he
is “financially overburdened.” Id. at
2 and June 10, 2015, the PZC notified the public that a
hearing on the special permit application for the efficiency
unit at 17 Olsen Drive was scheduled. Id. at ¶
30. The notice did not indicate that the application was for
a “non-compliant commercial use” or that the
Town's Article X income eligibility requirement for the
commercial use of an efficiency unit had been amended.
Id. at ¶¶ 30-31, 92. The Mansfield
defendants also did not publicize that “the Town's
Article X's [sic] income eligibility requirement for the
commercial use of an efficiency unit had been legislatively
changed” despite a requirement that proposed changes to
town zoning regulations be publicized and discussed at a
public hearing. Id. at ¶¶ 31-32.
15, 2015, the PZC held a public hearing to consider the
Lambert special permit application. Id. at
¶¶ 3, 31. When a PZC member raised the efficiency
unit income eligibility requirement at the meeting, JoAnn
Goodwin, the PZC Chairperson, stated that the PZC could not
consider income eligibility when considering the Lambert
special permit application. Id. at ¶¶
45-46, 68, 82. Linda M. Painter, the Director of Zoning and
Development, stated that the Town has a “pattern and
practice of not considering the Article Ten income
eligibility requirement or considering protected class
disparate impact assessments when assisting the PZC with
draft approval motions.” Id. at ¶¶
48, 70, 80, 83. The PZC determined that it could not consider
harm to the elderly with disabilities when considering the
special permit application. Id. at ¶ 3, 65.
Plaintiffs allege that the permit was granted without prior
notice of new zoning legislation or consideration of the
long-term disparate impact on Fried and Lowe specifically and
the elderly with disabilities in Mulberry Village in general.
Id. at ¶¶ 4, 65, 101, 103. Notice of the
PZC's decision was published in The Chronicle on
June 22, 2015. Id. at ¶ 94.
the zoning decision approving Lambert's application and
its appeal to the Superior Court, Ben Shaiken-then a member
of the Zoning Board of Appeals and currently the Town
Counselor-visited Lowe's home and told her that her
appeal was a waste of taxpayer money. Id. at ¶
49. Although plaintiffs requested the transcript of the
deliberations over the Lambert special permit application,
the transcript they received “established that the PZC
did not render a decision on a Lambert property at 17 Olsen
Drive but on a parcel identified as 17 Nelson Drive.”
Id. at ¶¶ 106-08.
result of deforestation and movement of soil on Lambert's
property, the surface water drainage from the Lambert
property to the Keshwani and Chu property “was altered
in November of 2016.” Id. at ¶ 37. The
Town of Mansfield issued a stop work notice to Lambert on
November 7, 2016, because he did not have a permit for
construction on his property, the building was larger than
the dimensions the Town had approved, and an assessment of
the retaining wall between the Lambert and Keshwani and Chu
property was needed. Id. at ¶ 38. Keshwani has
repeatedly asked Lambert to keep his chickens and dogs off of
the Keshwani and Chu property and to conform his outdoor
fires to the “town permit assessment, ” but to no
avail. Id. at ¶¶ 39-40. Lambert has also
not heeded Keshwani's requests that Lambert not move his
earth moving equipment through an “unauthorized
driveway” that passes through Keshwani's property.
Id. at ¶¶ 41-42. Finally, Keshwani
believes that, rather than erect the 10 by 10-foot shed that
the Town had approved in Lambert's special permit
application, Lambert will be constructing a 10 by 26-foot
structure where his father will store heavy land moving
equipment from his construction business. Id. at
values of the Keshwani and Chu property and the Fried and
Fairfield property have been reduced as a result of the
introduction of the Lambert residence, which they suspect
will be a rental unit, in a single-family zoned district.
Id. at ¶¶ 50, 51, 72, 86. Keshwani, Chu,
Fried, and Fairfield allege that they have been harmed by the
Mansfield defendants' “actions and policies that
led to the granting of the Lambert permit for commercial use
in [their] neighborhood; by the predictable resultant
segregation of elderly people with disabilities away from
[their] neighborhood; by [their] loss of ease in feeling free
to walk in the Mulberry Village neighborhood with its
unlawful expansion of commercial use traffic; and by the
litigation costs associated with protecting [their]
rights.” Id. at ¶¶ 54, 59, 75,
The plaintiffs do not appear to allege that anyone has moved
into the Lambert property or that there has been an actual
increase in traffic in Mulberry Village.