ELISE PIQUET v. TOWN OF CHESTER et al., SC 18723
Judicial District of Middlesex
Zoning; Declaratory Judgment; Whether Trial Court Lacked Jurisdiction due to Plaintiff's Failure to Exhaust her Administrative Remedies by Appealing to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The plaintiff owns property in Chester. When her husband died in 2004, the plaintiff had his remains interred on her property under the supervision of a licensed funeral director. In 2005, Chester's zoning compliance officer issued the plaintiff a cease and desist order claiming that Chester zoning regulations do not allow for private burials on residential property. The plaintiff appealed to the town's zoning board of appeals seeking a variance from the cease and desist order. The zoning compliance officer then wrote to the plaintiff notifying her that, while a burial was not permitted as a principal use or a special principal use in the district where the plaintiff's property is located, the cease and desist order was being withdrawn to allow the plaintiff time to remedy the violation. The plaintiff then withdrew her appeal to the zoning board of appeals and brought this action against the town and its planning and zoning commission seeking a declaration that she had a right to use her property for her husband's burial and, upon her death, her own burial. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the defendants and the plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Court (124 Conn. App. 518) reversed, ruling that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the suit because the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by appealing to the zoning board of appeals. The court rejected the plaintiff's claim that this declaratory judgment action was the proper vehicle to challenge the validity of the town's zoning regulations, finding that the only issue before the trial court was the zoning compliance officer's interpretation of the regulations, rather than the regulations' validity. The court concluded that the zoning compliance officer's letter indicating that private burials were not permitted in the plaintiff's residential district and temporarily withdrawing the cease and desist order was a decision by the zoning compliance officer from which the plaintiff could have appealed to the zoning board of appeals. The Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.