WELLSWOOD COLUMBIA, LLC, et al. v. TOWN OF HEBRON et al., SC 18284

Judicial District of Tolland

 

Municipalities; Regulation of Streets and Highways; Whether Court Improperly Denied Plaintiffs' Request to Enjoin Hebron from Closing Road at the Town Line. In August, 2004, the plaintiffs purchased property in Columbia for development as a subdivision. The only access to the parcel was through Wellswood Road, a narrow public road in Hebron that terminates as a dead end at the Hebron/Columbia town line. Zola Road, an unimproved road in Columbia, runs through the parcel to the Hebron town line, where it meets Wellswood Road. In October, 2005, the Hebron board of selectmen voted to close and barricade Wellswood Road at the town line because of safety and maintenance concerns. Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed this action, seeking a temporary and permanent injunction to prevent the defendants from closing and barricading the road. They alleged that Hebron's actions would landlock their property, causing a dramatic decrease in its economic value. The defendants moved to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, claiming that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge Hebron's actions. The court denied the motion. After a trial, the court denied the permanent injunction. It found that Hebron's decision to close Wellswood Road at the town line was a proper exercise of its police power because of its legitimate concerns about the impact that the proposed development would have on the health, safety and welfare of its citizens and the town itself. Further, the court determined that since access to the site through Columbia would be possible in the future, the plaintiffs failed to establish that Hebron's actions would actually landlock their proposed development, and thus, they did not prove that they would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction were not granted. Moreover, the court found that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate that they were without an adequate remedy at law. Finally, the court rejected the plaintiffs' position that General Statutes 13a-55, which entitles property owners who bound a discontinued or abandoned highway to a right-of-way over that highway, afforded them a private easement over Wellswood Road. It found that the statute was inapplicable because Hebron had not discontinued or abandoned the road since closing the road at the town line had no effect on the road's traffic or the property owners presently located alongside the road. On appeal, the plaintiffs argue that Hebron exceeded its police power in eliminating all access to their property. The defendants contend that the plaintiffs lacked standing to maintain an action to prohibit Hebron from closing the town road.