Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 11, 2010

CT Supreme Court Finds Town May Not Close Road That Gives Sole Access to Property in Adjacent Town

The plaintiff-appellants appeal on the question of whether a town may close a town road that gives sole access to a property in adjacent town in order to prevent traffic from a proposed subdivision on the property from overburdening the road. The plaintiff brought this action to enjoin the defendant from closing the road, but the trial court denied granting the injunction. The Supreme Court of Connecticut concluded on appeal that the defendants did not have the police power to close the road under the circumstances and reversed the judgment of the trial court.

The court first noted that the plaintiffs have standing because there is an interference with the right of access to the property, which is a specific harm, which is to be differentiated from a harm suffered by the general public.

The plaintiffs maintained the Town of Hebron’s conduct was in excess of their municipal powers. The Town contended that the closure is necessary under General Statutes §13a-99, which allows towns to build roads, § 7-148 (c) (6) (C) (i) allowing regulation of traffic and controlling the street, and General Statutes § 8-23 (d) (1), which allows towns have a plan for development of streets. Also, the Town stated it has the power to close the road as the development would violate Hebron’s road violations.

Addressing General Statutes §13a-99, the court stated the town has power to build roads, but not the power to close them because residents of other towns are utilizing them. The Court explained that  Town roads are for the benefit of the public in general, not solely the particular town’s residents. 

The Supreme Court noted that while the Town has the power to maintain safe driving conditions, that this must be exercised consistently with the general statutes. Here the closing of the road was not consistent with the general statutes concerning sub-developments since there were other procedures the defendants could have exercised prior to the road closing, such as appealing the granting of the subdivision permit by the adjacent municipality. Such an action would not have been futile for Hebron as a “zoning commission cannot unilaterally bind an adjoining town to a determination that its streets are adequate to handle the traffic from a permitted land use within the first town.” The Court also disagreed with the defendant’s position that § 8-23 (d) (1) gave the Town the necessary authority. The court further rejected the claim that the subdivision’s violations of Hebron’s road regulations would gave the requisite authority, stating that these regulations confer no power, but merely guide the exercise of powers granted.

Wellswood Columbia v. Town of Hebron, 295 Conn. 802, 992 A.2d 1120 (Conn, 4/27/2010).

The opinion can be accessed at:

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