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Cady v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Town of Burlington

Supreme Court of Connecticut

December 11, 2018

BRUCE A. CADY
v.
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF THE TOWN OF BURLINGTON ET AL.

          Argued April 3, 2018

         Procedural History

         Appeal from the decision of the named defendant upholding the decision of the defendant zoning enforcement officer approving certain property line revisions, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, where the case was transferred to the judicial district of Hartford, Land Use Litigation Docket; thereafter, the case was tried to the court, Berger, J.; judgment sustaining the appeal, from which the defendant GM Retirement, LLC, on the granting of certification, appealed.

Reversed; judgment directed.

          William J. Tracy, Jr., for the appellant (defendant GM Retirement, LLC).

          Marjorie Shansky, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Palmer, McDonald, Robinson, D'Auria, Mullins and Kahn, Js [*]

          OPINION

          MULLINS, J.

         The defendant GM Retirement, LLC, [1] appeals from the judgment of the trial court sustaining the administrative appeal of the plaintiff, Bruce A. Cady.[2] In the present appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court improperly (1) concluded that the defendant's proposed revision of boundary lines between certain adjacent lots constituted a new subdivision under General Statutes § 8-18, [3] thereby implicating § IV.B.5 of the Burlington Zoning Regulations (regulations), which requires an increased minimum lot area for new subdivisions, and (2) applied § III.F.7 of the regulations, which governs the establishment of non-conforming uses on preexisting lots. We conclude that the trial court improperly determined that the defendant's proposed lot line revisions constituted a subdivision and improperly applied § III.F.7 of the regulations.

         More specifically, we conclude that, when the town of Burlington (town) adopted § IV.B.5 of the regulations on October 1, 1983, the defendant's property contained three conforming, buildable lots, and that the proposed lot line revisions at issue in this case maintained three conforming, buildable lots. Thus, the defendant's proposed lot line revisions did not create a subdivision because those revisions did not divide one parcel of land into three or more parts. As a result, we further conclude that the defendant did not propose the establishment of a nonconforming use because the property lines, as revised, met the size requirements applicable to lots in existence as of October 1, 1983. Therefore, the trial court improperly applied § III.F.7 of the regulations to the present case. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

         The record and the trial court's memorandum of decision reveal the following facts and procedural history. The plaintiff resides in Burlington, and the defendant owns property abutting the plaintiff to the east.[4] Both the plaintiff's property and the defendant's property are bordered by Claire Hill Road to the north and Route 179 to the south. The defendant's property consists of 1.63 acres, which was once four lots. The largest of these four lots, 48Claire Hill Road, contains a two family dwelling and occupied roughly the entire northerly half of the defendant's property.

         The remaining three lots are to the south along Route 179. The first of these lots, located to the east, was previously owned by Clara L. Rainault. The second lot, located in the center, was previously owned by Donald F. Wark and Ellen P. Wark. The third lot, located to the west, was previously owned by Mary Legowski. In 1959, the Department of Transportation took land from these three southerly lots to widen what is now Route 179.[5]

         After the state widened Route 179, there were portions of each of the three southern lots that were unused. The unused portion of the eastern lot had been retained by Rainault but, because of the amount of that lot used to widen Route 179, that remnant became a nonconforming lot. The Department of Transportation had taken ownership of the Wark and Legowski lots in their entirety, and those lots remained conforming, even after a portion of each was used to widen Route 179. As a result, where there had once been four conforming lots, now there were three conforming lots.

         In 1986, the defendant's predecessor in title purchased the remnant of the Rainault lot. That lot was then combined with 48 Claire Hill Road to make one lot. The parties do not dispute that when the defendant's predecessor in title purchased the Rainault lot, it was combined with 48 Claire Hill Road. In 2013, the defendant purchased 48 Claire Hill Road, which now included the Rainault lot. Then, in 2014, the defendant purchased the remnants of the Wark and Legowski lots from the state.

         Thereafter, the defendant presented a map of the three lots with revised property boundaries to the town's zoning enforcement officer, Liz Burdick, for approval.[6] In this map, dated May 22, 2014, the defendant proposed lot line revisions which reconfigured the three lots on its property. The sizes of the three reconfigured lots were, respectively, 30, 261 square feet, 16, 866 square feet, and 24, 057 square feet. Burdick found that ‘‘[t]he three lots that were reconfigured as shown on this map [dated May 22, 2014] have been in existence since at least September 1958 as evidenced in a map entitled ‘Town of Burlington, Map Showing Land Acquired from Clara L. Raineault, [b]y [t]he State of Connecticut . . . .' ''

         Burdick further explained as follows: ‘‘The land comprising the current [three] lots was originally [four] lots . . . . The Rainault, Wark [and] Legowski lots were subject to a state taking for road improvements on Route [179]. The [s]tate . . . acquired the Wark [and] Legowski lots in their entirety in 1959. Rainault retained her (now non-conforming) lot and then transferred it to [the defendant's predecessor in title] in 1986 to be combined with 48 Claire Hill Road . . . . Therefore, as of the time of the filing of the subject [l]ot [l]ine [r]evision map, it is my opinion there were three preexisting lots, one at 48 Claire Hill Road . . . and two on [Route 179] . . . which could be reconfigured as needed to comply with current minimum bulk requirements of the R-15[7] zoning district for purposes of lot improvement and that no subdivision was required in order to proceed to do so.'' (Footnote added.) Burdick further found that ‘‘the filing of the May 22, 2014 [l]ot [l]ine [r]evision [m]ap, reconfiguring the properties [into] conforming R-15 zone lots permits development . . . .''

         The plaintiff filed an appeal with the town's Zoning Board of Appeals (board), which held a public hearing. The board ultimately denied the appeal and upheld Bur-dick's decision.

         The plaintiff then filed an appeal with the trial court pursuant to General Statutes § 8-8 (b), alleging that the board committed both procedural and substantive errors when it denied his appeal. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed, inter alia, that the proposed realignment of boundary lines for the three lots constituted a subdivision under § 8-18 and that the resultant lots were too small to satisfy the minimum lot area requirements for lots created by subdivision after October 1, 1983.

         The trial court agreed with the plaintiff and reversed the decision of the board. The trial court found that the board improperly concluded that the defendant's proposed lot line revision did not constitute a subdivision within the meaning of § 8-18. In reaching this conclusion, it relied on the Appellate Court's decision in Goodridge v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 58 Conn.App. 760, 765-66, 755 A.2d 329, cert. denied, 254 Conn. 930, 761 A.2d 753, and cert. denied, 254 Conn. 930, 761 A.2d 753 (2000), for the ...


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