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One Elmcroft Stamford, LLC v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of the City of Stamford

Appellate Court of Connecticut

September 3, 2019


         Argued February 13, 2019.

Page 1016

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1017


          Appeal from the decision by the named defendant granting the application of the defendant Pasquale Pisano for approval of the location of a used car dealer on certain real property, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain and transferred to the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, where the matter was tried to the court, Hon. Taggart D. Adams, judge trial referee; judgment denying the plaintiff's appeal, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court.


          Jeffrey P. Nichols, with whom was John W. Knuff, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          James V. Minor, special corporation counsel, with whom was Kathryn Emmett, director of legal affairs, for the appellee (named defendant).

          Gerald M. Fox III, for the appellees (defendant Pasquale Pisano et al.).

          Sheldon, Elgo and Lavery, Js.[*] . LAVERY, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.


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          [192 Conn.App. 277] LAVERY, J.

          The plaintiff, One Elmcroft Stamford, LLC, appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court denying its appeal from the decision of the defendant Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Stamford [192 Conn.App. 278] (board), approving the application of the defendant Pasquale Pisano (defendant) to locate the defendant used car business, Pisano Brothers Automotive, Inc. (Pisano Brothers), at 86 Elmcroft Road in Stamford. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly (1) determined that the defendant had standing to apply to the board for approval of the application, (2) upheld the board's decision, despite the board's failure to review the application in accordance with General Statutes § 14-55,[1] and (3) searched beyond the board's stated reason for approval of the application.[2] We disagree with the plaintiff's first claim but agree with the plaintiff's second and third claims. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Superior Court.

          The following facts and procedural history are relevant. Pisano Brothers is the lessee of the 6500 square foot parcel located at 86 Elmcroft Road in Stamford (property), in a General Industrial (M-G) zone. The plaintiff owns abutting property at 126 Elmcroft Road.

          In June, 2016, the defendant, on behalf of Pisano Brothers, applied for a used car dealer license from the Department of Motor Vehicles, listing himself as vice president and his brother as president. Pursuant to General Statutes § 14-54, a license for " dealing in or repairing motor vehicles" requires a " certificate of approval of the location" (certificate of approval) from the appropriate local board. Accordingly, the defendant additionally applied to the board for its approval of a " used car dealer" on the M-G zoned property (Pisano application).

         [192 Conn.App. 279] The board referred the Pisano application to various city agencies and boards. The record contains advisements from the Planning Board of the City of Stamford (planning board) and the Engineering Bureau of the City of Stamford (engineering bureau). In a letter to the board dated September 8, 2016, the planning board " unanimously recommended denial of [the Pisano application]," opining " that the proposed application does not keep with the character of the neighborhood and . . . [is] not consistent with the 2015 Master Plan Category #9 (Urban Mixed-Use)." The engineering bureau advised that it found the proposal " will not result in any adverse drainage impacts" and, further, that approval of the Pisano application should be conditioned on the installation of a " [n]ew concrete curb and sidewalk . . . along the frontage of the property."

          On September 14, 2016, the board held a public hearing on the Pisano application. The board posed several questions to the defendant and his attorney, Gerald M. Fox III. Two individuals spoke against the Pisano application. They were concerned about the inability to conceal the building and parking lot on the property with fencing, the lack of sidewalks, and the potential for a crowded parking lot. The plaintiff did

Page 1019

not offer comment. The board, during its deliberations, noted that the defendant seemed amenable to complying with various conditions of approval that would make the property compatible with the local neighborhood. The board unanimously voted to approve the Pisano application. Subsequently, on September 29, 2016, the board issued a letter to the defendant, stating its approval and setting forth several conditions.

          Pursuant to General Statutes § 14-57 and the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA), General Statutes § 4-183 et seq., the plaintiff appealed to the Superior Court. The plaintiff advanced three claims: (1) the defendant was not a proper party and lacked standing [192 Conn.App. 280] to apply to the board for location approval, (2) the board did not comply with hearing notice requirements, and (3) the board failed to conduct the requisite suitability analysis, as prescribed in § 14-55. As to the first two claims, the court disagreed. As to the third claim, the court agreed with the plaintiff's argument that § 14-55 applied and further acknowledged that " the board's certificate of approval looks and reads like a variance." Upon its review of the transcript from the September 14, 2016 public hearing, however, the court concluded that the board, nonetheless, gave due consideration to the suitability of the proposed use. It, therefore, reasoned that the board's decision was akin to an approval under § 14-55.[3] Accordingly, ...

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