Judicial District of Middlesex


Zoning; Trial Court Procedure; Enforcement of Judgments; Proper Forum for Challenging an Alleged Violation of Stipulated Judgment Concerning a Zoning Matter. The plaintiff, who planned to renovate his beach cottage in Old Saybrook, applied for a variance and a certificate of zoning compliance. The Old Saybrook zoning board of appeals (ZBA) denied his variance application. It also upheld the ruling of the zoning enforcement officer (ZEO) denying his application for a certificate of zoning compliance. During the plaintiff's subsequent appeal of the ZBA's decisions to the trial court, the adjoining property owner, Herbert Watstein, joined the appeal as a party defendant. Thereafter, the plaintiff, Watstein and the ZBA entered into a stipulation establishing the manner in which the plaintiff would be permitted to finish his construction project and providing that "[a] certificate of zoning compliance shall be issued for all work within the scope contemplated by this agreement and all necessary variances shall be deemed to be granted." The trial court approved the stipulation. Subsequently, the ZEO issued a certificate of zoning compliance for the work being done on the plaintiff's cottage. Watstein objected to the issuance of the certificate, claiming that the work done by the plaintiff was not within the scope of the stipulated judgment. He appealed the ZEO's decision to the ZBA, which overturned the issuance of the certificate. The plaintiff then appealed to the trial court, claiming that the ZBA lacked jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the stipulated judgment and, therefore, that its ruling was void. The trial court agreed that the ZBA lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter. Observing that the powers of zoning boards of appeal, which are granted pursuant to General Statutes 8-6, do not include the power to effectuate court judgments, the court found that the ZBA's ruling was based on an interpretation of the stipulated judgment, as opposed to an interpretation of the town's regulations and ordinances. Concluding that it had exclusive jurisdiction to effectuate its judgment, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff's appeal and stated that either party could file a motion in the trial court for the interpretation and/or enforcement of the terms of that judgment. The plaintiff appeals, claiming that his appeal should have been sustained rather than dismissed because the trial court was the only forum for contesting the ZBA's jurisdiction and overturning its decision. Watstein also appeals, asserting that the ZBA was the correct forum for deciding whether the plaintiff breached the stipulated agreement.