MORDECHAI ABEL et al. v. NEW CANAAN PLANNING & ZONING COMMISSION et al., SC 18333/18418
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Zoning; Aggrievement; Whether Owners of New York Property Within 100 Feet of Connecticut Land Involved in Zoning Decision have Standing to Appeal under General Statutes § 8-8. Defendant Pacific Farm, LLC, owns a 74 acre property in New Canaan known as Windsome Farm. Defendant Grace Property Holdings, LLC, has contracted to buy 48 acres of Windsome Farm (Parcel B) and plans to build a church on that parcel. The plaintiffs, four of whom own property in New York (the New York plaintiffs), brought two underlying actions. The first challenged the planning and zoning commission's granting of the defendants' applications to resubdivide Windsome Farm and its issuance of a special permit allowing the construction of the church. The trial court dismissed the action as to the New York plaintiffs, finding that they were not statutorily aggrieved under General Statutes § 8-8, which allows persons owning land within 100 feet of land involved in a planning and zoning commission's decision a right of appeal to the Superior Court. The court determined that even though the New York plaintiffs' property was within 100 feet of land involved in the commission's decision, the plaintiffs were not aggrieved because their property was not located in Connecticut. With a second lawsuit, the plaintiffs challenged the planning and zoning commission's approval of the defendants' amended special permit application. A different trial judge granted the defendants' motion to dismiss as to the New York plaintiffs, confirming the first judge's holding that § 8-8 does not confer extra-territorial jurisdiction over out-of-state plaintiffs. The New York plaintiffs bring these appeals from the judgments of dismissal. They claim that the plain language of § 8-8 does not restrict the right of appeal to those owning property in Connecticut. The New York plaintiffs also contend that any reading of § 8-8 that would bar them from challenging the zoning commission's decisions would violate the open courts provision of the Connecticut constitution and the privileges and immunities clause of the federal constitution, which effectively prevents a state from discriminating against citizens of other states in favor of its own citizens. The defendants raise alternate grounds on which they claim the judgments of dismissal can be affirmed. Among them is that the plaintiffs are not aggrieved under § 8-8 because, while their properties are within 100 feet of Windsome Farm, they are not within 100 feet of Parcel B, where the proposed church is to be built.