November 7, 2017
to enjoin the defendant from violating certain zoning
regulations of the city of Milford regulating, inter alia,
the posting of signs, and for other relief, brought to the
Superior Court in the judicial district of Ansonia-Milford,
where Stephen H. Harris was substituted as the plaintiff;
thereafter, the case was tried to the court,
Stevens, J.; judgment in part for the
plaintiff, from which the plaintiff appealed.
T. Garosshen, with whom was Karen L. Dowd, for the appellant
R. Becker, for the appellee (defendant).
Palmer, McDonald, Robinson, D'Auria, Mullins and Kahn,
outdoor sign or symbol is a venerable medium for expressing
political, social and commercial ideas.'' (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) Metromedia, Inc. v.
San Diego, 453 U.S. 490, 501, 101 S.Ct. 2882, 69
L.Ed.2d 800 (1981). The primary issue we must resolve in this
case is whether General Statutes § 8-2,  which authorizes
a municipality's zoning commission to regulate the
height, size, and location of ‘‘advertising signs
and billboards, '' permits a municipality to regulate
signs erected on residential property that disparage a
plaintiff, the zoning enforcement officer for the city of
Milford,  appeals from the judgment of the trial
court denying the plaintiff's request for permanent
injunctions ordering the defendant homeowner, Eileen R.
Arisian, to remove signs on her property that were not in
compliance with city zoning regulations and precluding the
defendant from occupying the property until she obtained
certain certificates required after home improvements had
been made to her residence. We conclude that the
defendant's signs are not ‘‘advertising
signs, '' and, accordingly, the trial court properly
concluded that municipal regulation of such signs is outside
the scope of the authority granted under § 8-2. We
further conclude that the trial court properly exercised its
discretion when it declined to issue an injunction precluding
the defendant from occupying the subject premises.
first address the plaintiff's challenge to the trial
court's conclusion that the city's zoning commission
lacked authority to regulate the defendant's signs as
‘‘advertising signs'' under § 8-2.
The following undisputed facts and procedural history are
relevant to this issue.
defendant contracted with Baybrook Remodelers, Inc., for
certain home improvements. Evidently dissatisfied with
Baybrook's performance, the defendant erected three signs
on her property. One sign stated: ‘‘I Do Not
Recommend BAYBROOK REMODELERS.'' Two signs contained
the caption: ‘‘BAYBROOK REMODELERS' TOTAL
LAWSUITS, '' with bar graphs underneath the caption
reflecting the number of lawsuits to which the contractor
purportedly was a party.
the plaintiff issued an order notifying the defendant that
her signs violated city zoning regulations limiting the size,
height, and number of signs per street line and ordering her
to remove them. See Milford Zoning Regs., art. V,
§§ 184.108.40.206 (2) and 220.127.116.11. When the defendant
still had not complied months later, the plaintiff commenced
the present action, which sought to enjoin the defendant from
maintaining the signs that did not comply with the zoning
regulations. The defendant asserted a special defense that
the city lacked authority to regulate her signs under §
trial court denied the request for the injunction. The court
found that the defendant's signs violated the
restrictions on the size, height, and number of signs in the
city's zoning regulations. The court nonetheless
concluded that the city lacked authority to regulate the
signs under § 8-2. It reasoned that the defendant's
signs were not ‘‘advertising signs'' as
previously defined by this court because they did not promote
the sale of goods or services. This appeal followed.
appeal, the plaintiff asserts that an
‘‘advertising'' sign, as that term is
used in § 8-2 and as that term is commonly defined,
means any sign that makes a public announcement. According to
the plaintiff, this broad definition is proper because it
more fully aligns with the stated purposes of the zoning
enabling statute than the narrower one adopted by the trial
court. The plaintiff further asserts that this broader
definition is proper because a narrower definition may
constitute content based regulation in violation of the first
amendment to the United States constitution. We
meaning of the term ‘‘advertising signs''
is a matter of statutory construction, to which well settled
principles and plenary review apply. Middlebury v.
Connecticut Siting Council, 326 Conn. 40, 48, 161
A.3d 537 (2017). ‘‘In seeking to determine that
meaning, General Statutes § 1-2z directs us to first
consider the text of the statute itself and its relationship
to other statutes. If, after examining such text and
considering such relationship, the meaning of such text is
plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable
results, extratextual evidence of the meaning of a statute
shall not be considered. . . . When a statute is not plain
and unambiguous, we also look for interpretive guidance to
the legislative history and circumstances surrounding its
enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to
implement, and to its relationship to existing legislation
and common law principles governing the same general subject
matter . . . .'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
Gilmore v. Pawn King, Inc., 313 Conn. 535,
542- 43, 98 A.3d 808 (2014).
addition to these general principles, we must be mindful when
construing § 8-2 that the grant of municipal authority
to enact zoning regulations is in derogation of the common
law. See City Council v. Hall, 180 Conn.
243, 248, 429 A.2d 481 (1980) (‘‘as a creation of
the state, a municipality has no inherent power of its own. .
. [and] the only powers a municipal corporation has are those
which are expressly granted to it by the state''
[citations omitted]); see also Schwartz v.
Planning & Zoning Commission, 208 Conn. 146,
153, 543 A.2d 1339 (1988) (zoning regulations and ordinances
are in derogation of common law). As such, this grant of
authority ‘‘should receive a strict construction
and is not to be extended, modified, repealed or enlarged in
its scope by the mechanics of [statutory]
construction.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
Ugrin v. Cheshire, 307 Conn. 364, 380, 54
A.3d 532 (2012).
begin our analysis with the observation that there is no
definition of ‘‘advertising signs'' or
‘‘advertise'' anywhere in the General
Statutes that provides guidance in the present case. But see
General Statutes § 20-206g (a) (defining ‘‘
‘advertise' '' for purposes of provision
limiting advertisements by massage therapists by reference to
inclusion of certain terms). However, as the trial
court's decision in the present case reflects, this court
has previously considered the meaning of this term.
Schwartz v.Planning & Zoning
Commission, supra, 208 Conn. 153-54, the defendant
commission was attempting to apply its zoning regulations to
preclude the display of an artistic, cylindrical metal
sculpture erected in front of a shopping plaza. We concluded
that the sculpture was not a ‘‘sign'' as
defined under the town of Hamden's zoning regulations,
because, although it would attract the attention of
passersby, it did not attract attention to a ‘‘
‘use, product, service, or activity' '' as
provided under the regulation's definition. Id.,
154. We also noted, however, that the defendant
commission's expansive interpretation was not consistent
with the authority granted to it under § 8-2 to regulate
‘‘advertising signs and billboards.''
Id., 154-55. The court first referenced dictionary
definitions of ‘‘advertise'' that it
deemed most relevant: ‘‘to announce publicly
esp[ecially] by a printed notice or a broadcast; [and] to
call public attention to esp[ecially] by
emphasizing desirable qualities so as to arouse a desire to