DOMINICK CARUSO et al. v. MERIDEN ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS et al., SC 19380

Judicial District of New Haven

 

      Zoning; Whether Zoning Board Properly Granted Use Variance on Finding that Application of Zoning Regulations Resulted in Practical Confiscation of Property.  The defendant, Mark Development, LLC, applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals of the city of Meriden for a use variance that would allow it to use a forty-eight acre parcel in the city for used car sales.  The property is in an area zoned “Regional Development District” (RDD).  The city’s zoning regulations provide that property located in an RDD zone may be used only for conference center hotels, executive offices, research and development, medical centers, state accredited colleges or universities and distribution facilities.  In seeking a variance, the defendant argued that application of the zoning regulations and the restrictive permitted uses reduced the value of its property so severely as to amount to a practical confiscation of the property.  The board agreed and granted the variance.  The plaintiffs—the city of Meriden, its city planner and its zoning enforcement officer— appealed to the trial court, which found that the record supported the finding of practical confiscation.  The plaintiffs appealed to the Appellate Court (150 Conn. App. 831), which held that the trial court erred in finding that there was substantial evidence in the record to support the board's finding that the zoning regulations had caused a practical confiscation of the property.  The Appellate Court noted that the only evidence of the value of the property submitted by the defendant was an appraiser’s report stating that, while the property was well situated and had convenient access to the highway system, the limited interest in the property and the low price that the defendant had paid for it could be attributed to the onerous zoning restrictions.  The court stated that, even if it were to accept the proposition that a different zoning classification might yield a higher market value, the evidence was nonetheless insufficient to support a finding of practical confiscation because there was no evidence as to any decrease in the value of the property after the defendant’s purchase by virtue of its being in an RDD zone.  The Appellate Court noted that, while the defendant had purchased the property for more than $1 million after it had been zoned RDD, it had offered no evidence that it was unable to sell the property or that it was unable to develop the property for any of the uses permitted in the zone.  Finally, the court noted that the defendant’s appraiser’s conclusion that the property was at a “competitive advantage” when compared to other properties in the area was insufficient to demonstrate practical confiscation.  The defendant appeals, and the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the defendant was not entitled to a variance.