WAYNE C. GERLT v. SOUTH WINDSOR PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION et al., SC 18149/18150
Judicial District of Hartford
Zoning; Whether Planning and Zoning Commission Lacked Authority to Approve General Plan of Development; Whether Approval of General Plan Violated Statutes and Zoning Regulations Regarding Site Plans; Whether Commission's Subsequent Approval of Site Plan was Proper Where Later Events Rendered Approval Violative of Regulations; Whether Site Plan Approval May be Invalidated Based on Improper General Plan of Development. Evergreen Walk, LLC, the owner of a 232 acre parcel of land in South Windsor, submitted a general plan of development to the South Windsor planning and zoning commission for the construction of retail, office and indoor recreation space on its property, as well as a hotel. The commission approved the general plan, and the plaintiff, who owns property within 100 feet of Evergreen Walk's property, appealed from the commission's decision. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the commission's zoning regulations regarding general plans of development were invalid because the commission lacked the statutory authority to authorize such plans. He further claimed that Evergreen Walk's general plan of development was actually a site plan application and that the commission improperly approved it in violation of the general statutes and zoning regulations regarding site plans. In particular, he claimed that the commission failed to obtain necessary reports and studies prior to approving the application. In dismissing the plaintiff's appeal, the trial court found that the plaintiff had not sustained his burden of proving that the commission exceeded its authority by enacting the zoning regulations regarding general plans of development. It further determined that Evergreen Walk's general plan was not a site plan application but a conceptual plan that was the subject of a voluntary, preliminary proceeding. It therefore found that the site plan requirements did not apply and that the approval of the general plan had no binding effect on either the commission or Evergreen Walk. It thus found that a reversal of the general plan would not provide the plaintiff with any actual relief. It also found that nothing in the zoning regulations or in the record indicated that the commission's review of the general plan of development negated Evergreen Walk's need to file a site plan application, changed the requirements regarding site plan applications, or ensured that any future site plan application submitted by Evergreen Walk would be approved.
Later, Evergreen Walk filed a site plan application to construct a 46.5 acre retail facility known as the "Lifestyle Center" on part of the larger parcel. The commission approved the application, observing that the town was willing to grant certain easements to Evergreen Walk over its parcels to comply with the town's zoning regulations. The plaintiff filed a separate appeal from that approval. He first claimed that because another court, after that approval, had declared the town's easements null and void, the site plan approval violated the zoning regulations. While acknowledging that the easement issue might ultimately affect the development of the property, the trial court rejected the plaintiff's claim, stating that it would not invalidate the commission's decision based upon information that the commission did not have before it at the time it approved the site plan. The plaintiff next claimed that the site plan approval was illegal because it was based on an invalid general plan of development for the entire 232 acre parcel. The court rejected that claim as well, noting that it had already dismissed the plaintiff's appeal from the commission's approval of the general plan. Accordingly, the trial court dismissed the appeal. The plaintiff has appealed, in SC 18149, from the dismissal of his challenge to the commission's ruling on the general plan and, in SC 18149, from the dismissal of his challenge to its ruling on the site plan application.