Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport


Zoning; Whether the Trial Court Overruled a Prior Decision Approving a Zone Change in Contravention of the Doctrines of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel; Whether the Superior Court has Statutory Authority to Approve a Zone Change; Whether, After a Court has Approved a Zone Change, the Enactment of the Change by a Planning and Zoning Commission is a Ministerial Task. In 2004, Pond View, LLC, filed an application to change the zone classification of its property from residential to business. Simultaneously, Pond View also applied for a special exception permit to construct a shopping center. The defendant commission denied Pond View's application for a zone change, and Pond View appealed. The court, Owens, J., sustained the appeal, finding that the record did not support the commission's decision to deny the zone change. Judge Owens ordered that the "plaintiff's application for a zone change is sustained and the application for the special exception permit is remanded to the [commission] for further consideration." Subsequently, the commission granted Pond View a special exception permit. It did not, however, take any action to implement a zone change with respect to Pond View's property. The plaintiffs, who are abutting landowners, appealed to the Superior Court, claiming that the commission, under its zoning regulations, could not grant Pond View a special exception permit unless it first changed the zone for Pond View's property to a business zone. The trial court found that, although Judge Owens sustained Pond View's appeal regarding the zone change application, he did not expressly order the commission to approve the zone change, although his remand order contemplated that the commission would, in due course, enact the change. The court surmised that the commission apparently construed Judge Owens' decision as having, ipso facto, enacted an actual zone change for Pond View's property, even though the Superior Court does not have authority under General Statutes 8-8 (l) to directly enact zone changes, but may remand the matter to the local zoning authority with direction to take such action. The court, therefore, opined that it was incumbent upon the commission to take the appropriate steps required to enact the change of zone for Pond View's property. The trial court sustained the plaintiffs' appeal, ruling that, because the commission never changed the zone for Pond View's property to DB-1, the commission could not approve the special exception permit application. On appeal, Pond View claims that the trial court improperly (a) revisited and reversed Judge Owens' approval of the zone change in contravention of the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, and (b) concluded that Judge Owens did not have authority under 8-8 (l) to approve a zone change. Pond View also claims that, when the Superior Court approves a zone change, the subsequent enactment of that zone change by a zoning commission is purely a ministerial task and, therefore, a remand order directing the commission to effectuate the zone change is not necessary.