Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 19, 2011

CT Supreme Court Holds Neighborhood Dock Not Subject to City’s Zoning Regulations

The property in question was located in a residential zone known as Southfield Point which is shown as having several private roads recorded in the subdivision map.  One of the roads, Cook Road extends beyond its intersection with Davenport Drive and continues to the shorefront of Stamford Harbor, this part of Cook Road is known as Cook Road Extension.  As houses were built on the subdivision lots, the owners formed associations which limited membership to property owners of the Southfield Point subdivision, and they use Cook Road Extension as access to Stamford Harbor which has had many docks, pilings, and other improvements built over the years.  The general public is not allowed to use Cook Road Extension and the dock, only the association members. 

The plaintiff owned a home located directly south of Cook Road Extension which abuts and is within 100 feet of the Extension and the dock.  In June of 2004 plaintiff had an attorney write to the zoning enforcement officer regarding the recent expansion of the dock.  In May of 2005 the zoning enforcement officer responded by saying that the dock was a neighborhood dock and not a marina therefore making it un-addressable under zoning regulations.  In June 2005 plaintiff filed an appeal with the board which subsequently held public hearings and upheld the decision of the zoning enforcement officer.  The plaintiff then appealed to the trial court from the board’s decision.  The court had posed three issues to address 1) Cook Road Extension; 2) the dock improvements lying directly on the waters of Stamford Harbor; and 3) the connection between the dock and Cook Road Extension.  Upon finding that none of the areas were governed by the city’s zoning regulations the plaintiff filed a motion to reargue.  The court granted the motion but denied the relief requested and thereafter rendered a judgment denying the plaintiff’s appeal.  This appeal followed. 

First the court found that the board properly determined that expansion of the dock had no effect on the use of Cook Road Extension as a means of access to the water since the Extensions had been designated for that purpose over 100 years prior on a map that had been filed in the Stamford land records.  Based on this finding, as a matter of law, the zoning officer had no reason or authority to regulate Cook Road Extension on the basis of the proposed dock improvements. 

Secondly, and more importantly, since the dock was not found to be used as a marina it was not subject to the authority of the zoning officer to regulate the dock improvements.  In order to have been a marina, the dock must have had “supplies and other facilities for small boats,” which the dock did not have.  Based on this fact, the zoning enforcement officer had no authority to regulate the dock improvements on the ground that they constituted a marina. 

Rapoport v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Stamford, 2011 WL 1795268 (Conn. 5/24/2011) 

The opinion can be accessed at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ct-supreme-court/1567383.html


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