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Gilead Community Services, Inc. v. Town of Cromwell

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 26, 2019

GILEAD COMMUNITY SERVICES, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF CROMWELL, et al., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On April 17, 2017, Gilead Community Services, Inc. (“Gilead”), Rainbow Housing Corp. (“Rainbow”), and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Inc. (“Fair Housing” and in conjunction with Gilead and Rainbow, “Plaintiffs”) sued the Town of Cromwell (“Cromwell”), as well as Enzo Faienza, Anthony Salvatore, and Jillian Massey, individually and in their official capacities as Cromwell's mayor, town manager, and zoning enforcement officer, respectively. Compl., ECF No. 1.

         Plaintiffs allege that Cromwell and the named officials (collectively “Defendants”) violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. (“FHA”) and implementing regulations at 24 C.F.R. § Part 100; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. (“ADA”) and implementing regulations at 28 C.F.R. § Part 35; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (“Section 504”) and implementing regulations at 24 C.F.R. § Part 8, “by denying housing to Gilead's clients, who are people with disabilities.” Id. ¶ 1.

         On June 22, 2018, Plaintiffs moved to amend their Complaint to add retaliation claims under 42 USC §§ 3617 and 3604(f)(2). Mem. of Law in Supp. of Pls. Mot. for Leave to File Am. Compl. (Pls. Mem. of Law), ECF No. 57 at 5. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants denied the property tax exemption on Gilead's other Cromwell property in retaliation for the fair housing rights claims pursued in this Court, and that Defendants' retaliation occurred after the Complaint was filed and the deadline for amendment of the pleadings had passed. Id. at 1-3.

         Defendants oppose the motion as untimely, substantially prejudicial, and improper due to Plaintiffs' present appeal to the Connecticut Superior Court. Obj. to Pls. Mot. for Leave to File Am. Compl. (“Defs. Obj”.), ECF No. 60.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court now GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion to amend the Complaint, ECF No. 57.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Gilead, allegedly a tax-exempt organization, seeks to provide housing and community-based services to individuals with mental illnesses. Compl. ¶ 22. Rainbow Housing Corporation allegedly is a separate entity affiliated with and controlled by Gilead. Id.

         Since 1968, Gilead allegedly has provided housing to mentally ill individuals in Middlesex County, Connecticut. Id. Around 2015, Gilead allegedly sought to operate a “community residence for six men with mental health diagnoses in an existing single family residence at 5 Reiman Drive in Cromwell” (“Reiman Drive residence”). Id. ¶ 2.

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants not only opposed the operation of the Reiman Drive residence but also “took a leading role in fanning the flames of community opposition, providing community forums for amplifying the opposition's voice, and knowingly and intentionally invoking the full weight of municipal authority to prevent Gilead from operating the house on Reiman Drive.” Id. ¶ 4.

         Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants: (1) “called a special Town forum and encouraged Town residents to attend and oppose Gilead's operation of the house”, (2) “issued an official Town press release requesting that Gilead relocate the house”, (3) “petitioned the Connecticut Department of Public Health (“DPH”) to deny Gilead the ability to operate the house on Reiman Drive”, (4) “issued a ‘Cease & Desist Order,' wrongly alleging that Gilead was operating the house ‘without first obtaining proper zoning permits,' in violation of Town zoning regulations”, and (5) “denied Gilead a property tax exemption for which it was clearly eligible.” Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiffs claim that “[a]s a consequence of the Defendants' discriminatory actions . . . Gilead had to limit occupancy at the house to just two residents for several months, and eventually was forced to cease its operations on August 31, 2015.” Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants deprived Gilead of the “opportunity to fulfill its mission”, id. ¶ 7, and forced the actual and proposed occupants of the Reiman Drive residence “to remain in settings more restrictive and institutional than clinically indicated to be in their best interests”, id. ¶ 9.[1]

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint. Compl. That day, the Court issued a Standing Order on Pretrial deadlines that set the deadline for the amendment of pleadings as June 16, 2017. Order, ECF No. 2.

         On June 5, 2017, the parties filed a joint Rule 26(f) planning report. Form 26(f) Report of Parties' Planning Meeting, ECF No. 20.

         On June 20, 2017, the Court issued a Scheduling Order that set a discovery deadline of June 22, 2018. Scheduling Order, ECF No. 26.

         On June 29, 2017, Defendants filed an Answer to the Complaint. Answer, ECF No. 27. Cromwell largely denies Plaintiffs' allegations. Answer, ECF No. 27. The town asserts four defenses: (1) that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, (2) that Plaintiffs' claims against individual Defendants are barred by qualified immunity, (3) that Plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies, id. at 12, and (4) that Plaintiffs' claims are not ripe for adjudication under Williamson Cty. Reg'l Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), Am. Answer, ECF No. 44-1.

         On August 24, 2017, the Court granted the parties' consent motion for an extension of time for Plaintiffs to respond to Defendants' first set of interrogatories and requests for production. Order, ECF No. 31. The Court then granted two requests by Defendants for extensions of time to respond to Plaintiffs' interrogatories and requests for production, Orders, ECF Nos. 33, 39.

         On December 26, 2017, after the deadline for amendment of pleadings had passed, Order, ECF No. 2, Defendants moved to amend their Answer to add a fourth affirmative defense. ...


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