Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 5, 2015

CT Supreme Court Holds Corporate Officers Lacked Standing to Challenge Zoning Ordinance

The Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Monroe appealed from the judgment of the trial court which sustained the appeal of the plaintiffs, Handsome, Inc., and its principal officers, Todd Cascella and Mona Cascella, from the commission’s decision to impose conditions on the granting of an extension of a special exception permit that were not included in the original permit. The commission claimed that the trial court incorrectly concluded that: 1) the plaintiffs were aggrieved by the commission’s decision and thus had standing to bring the appeal; 2) the court had subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ related claim under the Freedom of Information Act, General Statutes § 1–200, even though the same claim was pending before the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC); 3) the commission could not impose additional conditions when it granted the extension; and 4) the additional permit conditions were new.

The commission first claimed that the plaintiffs were not aggrieved because Handsome was not the legal owner of the property on May 5, 2011, when the extension was approved, and the Cascellas, despite their status as corporate officers who derived income from the corporate entity, were not specially and injuriously affected by the commission’s action. The commission argued that Handsome was not aggrieved because it lost title to the property due to the passing of the law days in the strict foreclosure action and the absence of a recorded foreclosure certificate does not void the passing of title through the judicial foreclosure decree. The Connecticut courts have found the title becomes absolute in the lienor the day after all of the law days have passed without anyone redeeming. Here, the trial court rendered a judgment of strict foreclosure in favor of MD Drilling on December 29, 2009, and set March 2, 2010, as the law day. The court subsequently granted Cascella & Son’s motion for an extension of time to postpone commencement of the law days and set a new law day for June 29, 2010, which passed without redemption. Accordingly, the court concluded Handsome lost title to the property on June 30, 2010, more than ten months before the commission granted the permit extension.

The plaintiffs next argued that the Cascellas were aggrieved because they were not only officers of Handsome, but were personal guarantors of the mortgage on 125 Garder Road and had cosigned loans for equipment on the site, both of which were foreclosed. They also argue that they were beneficiaries of the judgment ordering the commission to approve the permit extension and were sued personally by the town and the town zoning enforcement officer for allegedly violating the new permit conditions during the present appeal. The court disagreed with the trial court that the Cascellas were statutorily aggrieved, because no evidence was presented at trial that they satisfied a principal requirement of statutory aggrievement in Connecticut, that the ownership of land abutting or within 100 feet of any portion of the land involved in the decision of the board or commission. There was no classical aggrievement because as corporate officers, the Cascellas never represented themselves as individual partners with Handsome in connection with the development of the property. Furthermore, all communications from local authorities were directed to Handsome, and the Cascellas acted in their capacities as corporate officers in representing the interests of Handsome, not as independent individuals representing their own distinct interests. Because any injuries that they suffered as a result of the planning and zoning commission’s decision were in reality derivative of injuries to Handsome, the injuries were indirect, and therefore they no standing to assert them. The judgment was therefore vacated and the case was remanded with direction to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Handsome, Inc. v Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Monroe, 2015 WL 4130360 (CT. 7/14/2015)

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