Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lane v. Cashman

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 30, 2018

THOMAS W. LANE, ZONING ENFORCEMENTOFFICER OF THE TOWN OF CLINTON
v.
JEFFREY S. CASHMAN ET AL.

          Argued October 18, 2017

          Edward M. Cassella, for the appellants (defendants).

          Sylvia K. Rutkowska, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Keller, Prescott and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          KELLER, J.

          The defendants, Jeffrey S. Cashman and Patricia Cashman, appeal from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the plaintiff, Eric Knapp, the zoning enforcement officer for the town of Clinton.[1]The plaintiff brought the underlying action against the defendants to enforce orders to discontinue alleged zoning violations occurring at the defendants' property in Clinton. The defendants claim that the court erred in (1) striking their special defenses related to nonconforming uses and (2) granting the plaintiff's motions in limine. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         In his original complaint dated September 6, 2012, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants, who are the owners of 66 River Road in Clinton, were in violation of several Clinton zoning regulations by virtue of their keeping and raising cows without a permit, constructing a metal corral within fifty feet of the street line and within thirty-five feet of the southeast property line, and utilizing the metal corral as a structure or enclosure in which to keep the cows.[2] The plaintiff alleged that, on January 26, 2012, he issued a warning of violation to the defendants with respect to their keeping of cows on the property without a permit and that, on March 13, 2012, he issued a warning of violation to the defendants with respect to their placement of the metal corral within the minimum setback requirements and the keeping of cows in the metal corral. The plaintiff further alleged that, on April 16, 2012, he issued to the defendants an order to discontinue their uses of the premises that violated the applicable zoning regulations, that the defendants did not file an appeal from the order within fifteen days of the issuance of the order, and that the defendants had failed to comply with the order.[3] In his prayer for relief, the plaintiff sought, inter alia, a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from keeping cows on the subject premises without a permit; a mandatory injunction requiring the defendants to remove the metal corral from the street line setback and to keep any permitted livestock in an appropriate building, stable, or enclosure; and civil penalties authorized by General Statutes § 8-12 for the defendants' failure to comply with the order to discontinue.

         In their answer dated November 5, 2012, the defendants admitted their ownership of the subject premises and, with respect to the remainder of the allegations set forth in the original compliant, either denied the allegations or left the plaintiff to his proof. In a special defense dated November 5, 2012, the defendants alleged in relevant part that ‘‘[t]he complained of activities were nonconforming uses that predate the zoning laws the plaintiff is trying to enforce.''[4] Also, in a counterclaim dated November 5, 2012, the defendants alleged that the plaintiff, by bringing ‘‘these complaints'' against them, engaged in ‘‘extreme and outrageous'' conduct that caused the defendants ‘‘extreme emotional distress''; the plaintiff, ‘‘[b]y filing these groundless complaints, '' committed intrusions of a ‘‘highly offensive'' nature against the defendants; and that the plaintiff had engaged in professional malpractice that caused the defendants to suffer damages. The defendants sought, inter alia, money damages and ‘‘[a] court order requiring . . . [the plaintiff] to cease harassing, selective enforcement of the zoning regulations against . . . [the defendants].''

         The plaintiff filed a ‘‘motion to dismiss and/or strike'' with respect to the defendants' counterclaim and special defense. The plaintiff argued that the counterclaim and special defense ‘‘merely seek to contest the validity of a zoning order issued pursuant to General Statutes § 8-12, from which the [defendants] did not timely appeal pursuant to General Statutes § 8-7. Their failure to exhaust that administrative remedy leaves this court without subject matter jurisdiction over their special defense and counterclaim.'' Alternatively, the plaintiff argued that each counterclaim count ‘‘[failed] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under the facts alleged.''

         Over the defendants' objection, and after hearing argument on the motion, the court, Domnarski, J., by order dated May 10, 2013, granted the plaintiff's motion. In striking the special defense, the court reasoned that it was ‘‘legally insufficient'' because the defendants failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. In dismissing ‘‘[a]ll counts of the counterclaim, '' the court likewise relied on the fact that the defendants had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, noting that ‘‘[i]n the counterclaim counts, the defendants seek a collateral attack on a zoning determination that they did not appeal from.'' On June 3, 2013, the defendants, pursuant to Practice Book § 6-15, filed a notice of intent to appeal from Judge Domnarski's May 10, 2013 dismissal of their entire counterclaim ‘‘until a final judgment rendered in said matter disposes of the case for all purposes and as to all parties.''

         In the absence of an objection, on July 3, 2013, the plaintiff filed a request for leave to file an amended complaint and an amended complaint for the purpose of incorporating allegations of additional zoning violations at the subject premises. The amended complaint added an additional count to the cause of action. In this second count, the plaintiff sought enforcement with respect to an order to discontinue dated November 15, 2012. In count two, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants engaged in multiple activities on the subject premises in violation of the Clinton zoning regulations. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants ‘‘have sold, and continue to sell, firewood and mulch, or otherwise maintain a retail establishment on the premises''; ‘‘have brought, and continue to bring, wood, brush, logs, wood chips, branches, and/or leaves onto the site from outside sources to process into firewood and mulch, or otherwise manufacture or process goods, on the premises''; ‘‘have participated, and continue to participate, in the wholesale of mulch on the premises''; ‘‘have stored, and continue to store, heavy equipment, trucks, and small equipment and machinery associated with businesses being conducted at the site on the premises''; ‘‘have stockpiled, and continue to stockpile, wood materials, including wood, wood chips and compost, beyond what is required for personal use on the premises and in contact with vegetation''; ‘‘have parked, and continue to park, several commercial vehicles which exceed the maximum vehicle weight limit on the premises''; ‘‘have parked, and continue to park, more than one commercial vehicle within the vehicle weight limit on the premises''; ‘‘have stockpiled and stored, and continue to stockpile and store, materials and equipment outside on the premises, including mulch, logs, firewood, log splitters, wood chippers, grinders, vehicles, loaders, and light and heavy construction equipment''; ‘‘have stored, and continue to store, more than two unregistered vehicles on the premises, including a recreational vehicle, a tractor for a tractor trailer, a dump truck, and an SUV''; ‘‘have constructed and maintained, and continue to maintain, a shed on the premises without a permit''; ‘‘have kept, and continue to keep, chickens and ducks on the premises without a permit and in excess of a total of ten''; ‘‘have conducted, and continue to conduct, a farming operation of raising, keeping and caring for livestock, poultry and ducks on the premises without a permit or special exception'';[5] and have ‘‘kept, and continue to keep, livestock on the premises without any covered watertight container or containment on site for manure.''

         The plaintiff alleged that all of these activities violated specific zoning regulations, all of which were cited in the complaint; that he issued the defendants a warning of violation on October 18, 2012; that he issued the defendants an order to discontinue on November 15, 2012; that the defendants failed to comply with the order to discontinue; and that the defendants did not file an appeal from the order to discontinue within fifteen days of the issuance of that order.[6] Moreover, the plaintiff alleged that on March 13, 2013, the defendants notified him ‘‘that they intended to continue to regrind and sell wood chips from the premises, '' and that their conduct constituted a wilful failure to comply with the order to discontinue.

         In his amended complaint seeking enforcement of both orders to discontinue, the plaintiff sought permanent and mandatory injunctive relief related to the defendants' activities on the premises, civil penalties for the defendants' wilful failure to comply with the orders to discontinue dated April 16, 2012, and November 15, 2012, and further just and equitable relief deemed appropriate by the court.

         The defendants filed an answer to the amended complaint dated August 22, 2013. Therein, the defendants generally denied the substantive allegations in the amended complaint, or left the plaintiff to his proof. Additionally, the defendants raised three special defenses. In the first special defense, the defendants alleged that, to the extent that the plaintiff alleged that they used the subject premises as a farm, such use was a legally permissible nonconforming use of the premises.[7] In the second special defense, the defendants alleged that, to the extent that the plaintiff alleged that they used the premises as a commercial nursery operation, such use was a legally permissible nonconforming use of the premises.[8] In the third special defense, the defendants, claiming that the plaintiff's conduct led them to believe that their activities at the subject premises were legally permissible, alleged a defense of municipal estoppel.

         Subsequently, on September 6, 2013, the plaintiff filed a request to revise in which he requested that the defendants delete the first and second special defenses in their entirety and, with respect to the third special defense, state the special defense more particularly. In his request to revise, the plaintiff asserted that the first two special defenses were legally improper because they previously had been stricken by Judge Domnarski. Thereafter, on November 22, 2013, the defendants deleted the first and second special defenses in their entirety and repleaded the third special defense.

         Following the revision, on December 24, 2013, the plaintiff moved to strike the repleaded third special defense in its entirety on the grounds that it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and was, in part, unresponsive to the request to revise inasmuch as it injected into the special defense a new claim that appeared to challenge the validity of the orders, specifically, that the defendants' use of the subject premises was lawful pursuant to General Statutes § 19a-341.[9] The defendants filed an opposition to the motion to strike the third special defense. After the court, Aurigemma, J., heard argument on the motion, on May 21, 2014, it granted the motion. In granting the motion, the court determined, first, that the defendants had failed to allege sufficient facts to support a claim of municipal estoppel because they had failed to allege that the plaintiff had induced the defendants to engage in the activities at issue at the subject premises. The court determined, second, that, in their revised answer, the defendants improperly had included revisions that had not been requested by the plaintiff in his request to revise and which were unrelated to the special defense of municipal estoppel.[10] Also, with respect to the addition of paragraph 10 of the revised third special defense, which raised a claim that was based on § 19a-341, the court determined that it was improper because it ‘‘alleges preexisting nonconforming use, which has previously been stricken by this court.''

         Additionally, prior to the commencement of the trial, the plaintiff filed five motions in limine to preclude the defendants from presenting evidence for the purpose of (1) contesting the validity of the orders to discontinue dated April 16, 2012, and November 15, 2012; (2) proving a defense of municipal estoppel or laches; (3) demonstrating that relevant actions or decisions had been undertaken or made by any Clinton individuals or agencies other than the Clinton zoning authority; (4) demonstrating facts related to police reports and ‘‘claims of false or illegal entries into the record (specifically the zoning office ‘street' file) by the plaintiff as zoning enforcement officer''; and (5) proving a defense of non-conforming farm use of the subject premises. The defendants objected to these motions. The court expressly granted the first, second, fourth, and fifth of these motions, but a ruling on the third motion, related to evidence concerning other agencies or individuals, does not appear in the record.

         Prior to the hearing, the parties entered into a joint stipulation of facts, dated April 28, 2015, as follows:

         ‘‘(1) The defendants . . . purchased the [subject premises] . . . and are the current owners.

         ‘‘(2) The premises is located within a R-80 residential zoning district.

         ‘‘(3) The defendants have kept, and continue to keep, cows on the premises . . . .

         ‘‘(4) The defendants have constructed a metal corral within fifty feet from the street line and thirty-five feet from the southeast property line. . . .

         ‘‘(5) On April 16, 2012, the plaintiff issued to the defendants an order to discontinue the keeping of cows within a metal corral, which was constructed and located within the minimum front yard setback for the R-80 zoning district (50 feet) and the minimum side property line setback for the R-80 zoning district (35 feet).

         ‘‘(6) The defendants did not file an appeal from the order to discontinue to contest its validity within fifteen (15) days after the issuance of said order to discontinue pursuant to . . . General Statutes §§ 8-6 and 8-7 and the rules of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Clinton [board] . . . establishing a fifteen (15) day appeal period. . . .

         ‘‘(7) The defendants have sold, and continue to sell, firewood and mulch on the premises.

         ‘‘(8) On October 18 and November 15, 2012, section 24.1.21 [of the Clinton zoning regulations] stated that retail establishments, as a permitted use, were prohibited in the R-80 district.

         ‘‘(9) The defendants have brought, and continue to bring, wood, logs and wood chips onto the premises from outside sources to process into firewood and mulch.

         ‘‘(10) The defendants have participated, and continue to participate, in the wholesale of mulch on the premises.

         ‘‘(11) On October 18 and November 15, 2012, section

         24.1.61 [of the Clinton zoning regulations] stated [that] manufacturing, processing or assembly of goods, as a permitted use, is prohibited in the R-80 district.

         ‘‘(12) On October 18 and November 15, 2012, section

         24.1.62 [of the Clinton zoning regulations] stated [that] warehousing and wholesale businesses, as a permitted use, are prohibited in the R-80 district.

         ‘‘(13) The defendants have stored, and continue to store, heavy equipment, trucks, small equipment and machinery associated with the business being conducted at the site on the premises.

         ‘‘(14) The defendants have stockpiled, and continue to stockpile, wood materials, including wood, wood chips and compost.

         ‘‘(15) On October 18 and November 15, 2012, section 24.1.76 [of the Clinton zoning regulations] stated [that] storage of materials, which is dangerous due to explosion, extreme fire hazard and radioactivity, beyond what is required for person[al] residential use, as a permitted use, is prohibited in the R-80 district.

         ‘‘(16) The defendants have parked, and continue to park, several vehicles, including two dump trucks, two mason trucks, a 3500 Dodge pickup and a six wheel tanker truck on the premises.

         ‘‘(17) On October 18 and November 15, 2012, section 24.1.70 [of the Clinton zoning regulations] stated [that] contractor's businesses, associated building and storage yards, as permitted uses, are prohibited in the R-80 district.

         ‘‘(18) On October 18 and November 15, 2012, section 26.1.4 (d) (1) stated that parking of commercial vehicles in excess of one and one-half ton gross vehicle weight, as an accessory use, is prohibited in the R-80 district.

         ‘‘(19) The defendants have stockpiled and stored, and continue to stockpile and store, materials and equipment outside on the premises, including mulch, logs, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.