HUNTER RIDGE, LLC v. PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION OF THE TOWN OF NEWTOWN, SC 19255/19256

Judicial District of Danbury

 

†††† †Environment; Zoning; Whether Trial Court, in Adjudicating Resubdivision Appeal and Intervenorís Environmental Claims, Lacked Authority to Issue a Permanent Injunction Restricting Plaintiffís use of its Property; Whether Substantial Evidence Supported Planning and Zoning Commissionís Rejection of Intervenorís Environmental Claims.† The plaintiff filed a resubdivision application with the defendant planning and zoning commission (commission), seeking to create fourteen residential building lots on a parcel in Newtown.† The commission denied the application, and the plaintiff appealed.† Spencer Taylor was permitted to intervene in the appeal pursuant to General Statutes ß 22a-19 for the purpose of raising environmental issues.† He claimed that the proposed development would cause unreasonable pollution and adversely affect water quality and plant and animal life on and adjacent to the property.† The trial court remanded the matter to the commission, directing it to consider the environmental issues.† After the commission rejected Taylorís claims, the matter was returned to the trial court, which determined that the commissionís conclusions were not supported by the record.† The court reasoned that there was no competent or substantial evidence to support the commissionís findings and that the commission disregarded the substantial evidence that the project would likely cause unreasonable damage to a talus slope, a mature forest, several wetlands, and Taunton Lake.† The court further decided that, because the commission did not give adequate consideration to the potential adverse impacts of the proposed development on the environment, the court was required independently to adjudicate whether such impacts were unreasonable.† It went on to conclude that the proposed development would cause unreasonable harm to the natural resources of the property and the greater ecosystem surrounding Taunton Lake.† The court explained that the project would damage the talus slope, eliminate important areas of bird habitat, destroy the mature forest, endanger trout habitats, and pollute the wetlands and Taunton Lake.† In light of the foregoing, the court ordered that there be no further development of the ecologically sensitive portions of the property without the consent of the court.† It further ordered that there be no removal of any tree with a diameter of ten inches or greater on those sensitive portions of the property.† Finally, the court awarded Taylor the costs for retaining his expert witnesses.† In this appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court, in adjudicating its resubdivision appeal and Taylorís environmental claims, lacked the authority to issue a permanent injunction restricting its use of the property.† It also contends that, in finding that the commissionís conclusions were not supported by substantial evidence, the court disregarded the evidence in the record that supported the commissionís findings.† The plaintiff also argues that the court should not have independently adjudicated the environmental impacts of the development because the commission gave adequate consideration to such impacts and that the court improperly awarded Taylor all of his requested costs without holding a hearing.