Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 14, 2019

CT Appeals Court Reverses Denial of an Application for a Customary Home Occupation

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Plaintiff, Cindy Watson, owned and operated a business, Haven Transportation, LLC that provided special transportation services to school districts, using minivans. Plaintiff had managed her business from a single room office in her residence since 2013. Prior to November, 2015, drivers using the minivans went to the plaintiff’s residence, both for business and for social events. Following a complaint, the defendant zoning enforcement officer, Peter R. Carey, issued a cease and desist order to the plaintiff. In this case, plaintiff appealed from the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing her appeal from the decision of the defendant Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Glastonbury, in which the Board affirmed the decision of Carey, declining to approve the plaintiff’s application for permission to conduct a customary home occupation from a home office within her residence.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the court erred in concluding that she needed to prove that her home occupation was “customary,” as other people in Glastonbury also were managing off-site companies from their home offices. Plaintiff further contended that even if “customary” was something outside of the strict requirements of §7.1 (b) (2) (a), her home office was customary in that she used only computers and telephones to manage her business from a single office in her residence. Here, customary home occupation was listed as an accessory use, subject to the provisions set forth in §7.0 of the regulations. Additionally, Section 7.1 (b) (1) of the regulations specifically allowed “special accessory uses and structures,” specifically including a “customary home occupation”. The specific standards for an acceptable customary home occupation then are set forth in § 7.1 (b) (2) (a), and the parking requirements are set forth in § 9.0 of the regulations.

The court determined that a home occupation that satisfied the specific standards set forth in § 7.1 (b) (2) (a) was a customary home occupation under the regulations, and there was no separate and distinct test that an applicant was required to meet in order to satisfy the word “customary.” Instead, if an applicant met the standards, the home occupation was customary under the regulations as adopted by the Town of Glastonbury.

Contrary to the Board’s position, the court found that there was nothing in the plain language of the regulation that prohibited a home occupation that was part of a larger enterprise located off-site. The court illustrated that the board’s interpretation would lead to arbitrary outcomes, through the use of an example of a solo practitioner law firm operated from a residence versus a lawyer working from home by telecommuting. Under the Board’s interpretation, a solo practitioner law firm operated from a residence would be a permitted home occupation, but a lawyer who worked from home by telecommuting to a firm in Hartford would not be a permitted home occupation. The judgment was therefore reversed and the case was remanded to the Superior Court with direction to render judgment sustaining the plaintiff’s appeal and directing the Board to approve her application for a customary home occupation.

Watson v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Glastonbury, 2019 WL 1760110 (CT App. 4/23/2019)

 

 


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