Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 4, 2020

CT Appeals Court Holds Zoning Board Erred by Treating Application for Zoning of Property as Used Car Dealership as Request for Variance

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Defendant Pasquale Pisano, on behalf of Pisano Brothers, applied for a used car dealer license from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and listed himself as vice president and his brother as president. The Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Stamford unanimously voted to approve the Pisano application, and plaintiff, One Elmcroft Stamford, LLC, appealed to the Superior Court. In this case, the plaintiff appealed from the judgment of the Superior Court denying its appeal from the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The plaintiff first contended that Pisano Brothers, in its business capacity, sought a used car dealer’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles, yet the certificate of approval application – and the subsequent hearing notification – listed the defendant as the applicant. As a result, the plaintiff argued that the board’s approval of the Pisano application was improper because its decision was rendered in favor of a person rather than in the name of the proposed licensee. The plaintiff failed to cite any authority in support of this proposition, however. Here, while Pisano Brothers was not the named applicant on the certificate of approval application, the court found the “totality of the circumstances” sufficiently linked the defendant to Pisano Brothers, so that no one was misled by or misunderstood the nature of the application. Furthermore, at the outset of the public hearing, the defendant was introduced as one of the owners of Pisano Brothers, along with his brother. Accordingly, the court held that the trial court did not err in finding that the defendant, as a representative of Pisano Brothers, had standing to apply to the board for location approval.

The court next noted the record reflected that on several occasions the Pisano application was referred to and treated as an application for a variance. Specifically, in approving the Pisano application, the Board issued one finding, in which it directly quoted the following variance standard provided in the Stamford zoning regulations: “Strict application of the provisions of these Regulations would deprive the applicant of the reasonable use of such land or building and the granting of the variance is necessary for the reasonable use of the land or building.” Despite the fact that the Board heard evidence that could pertain to suitability, and issued several conditions of approval that accommodated potential concerns within the neighborhood, the Board failed to issue any findings as to the suitability factors enumerated under the requisite §14-55. Moreover, when the court reviewed the record to determine whether the evidence could, nevertheless, support a conclusion that the suitability requirement was satisfied, the court erroneously substituted its own judgment for that of the Board. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court with the instruction to remand the case to the Board for further proceedings.

One Elmcroft Stamford, LLC v. Zoning Board of Appeals of City of Stamford, 192 Conn. App. 275 (9/3/2019)

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