Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 4, 2020

CT Appeals Court Reverses Determination that Adjusting Lot Line of Two Adjacent Properties Requires Subdivision Application

This post was authored by Tyler Doan of Vermont Law School.

Plaintiffs own two adjacent plots of land: one is fifteen acres and one is ten acres. Plaintiff wanted to reduce the fifteen-acre plot to four point seven acres and increase the ten-acre lot to approximately twenty acres. Plaintiff submitted a Mylar map of the properties to the town’s planning and zoning administrator seeking a lot line adjustment. The administrator, after letters sent by attorneys for both sides, deferred to the zoning commission. Based on the facts, the commission concluded that the proposed change constitutes a drastic change in the existing lots and that an application for subdivision approval was necessary, and they denied lot line revision.

Plaintiff argued that the lot line revision does not constitute a subdivision under the statute at issue, arguing that the trial court erred in determining that the lot line revision was more than “minor.” Defendants argued that the lot line adjustment constituted a subdivision under the statute, the trial court was correct in determining it constitutes a subdivision, and even if it were wrong, the Court of Appeals should hold it constitutes a subdivision due to the differentiation between the words plot and lot.

The Court of Appeals noted that the issue was one of statutory interpretation. The statute defines a subdivision as land that must have been divided into three or more parts or lots. The Connecticut Supreme Court had previously affirmed that it must be divided into three or more plots. The Court of Appeals stated that in the present case, this did not happen. The two plots of land were adjusted, but neither divided for a third plot. The Court further stated that the trial court had also determined that no additional lot was created. The Court determined that the plot in question was previously cut at the time of adopting the town’s planning regulations, but this did not affect the decision that it needs to be cut again into three or more lots for it to need a subdivision application. The Court concluded that under the statute at issue, the proposed lot revision did not satisfy the definition of subdivision.

Defendants argued that the words “parts” and “lots” in the statute are stated separately and may have been intended by the legislature to be interpreted independently. The Court concluded that the word “parts” refer to separate but whole, not fractional, members of a land tract. Furthermore, the inclusion of the word “parts” clarifies “lots” to mean pieces of property that comprise one or more units that can constitute a whole. The Court concluded that the word “parts” is to be read together with the word “lots” to clarify the latter’s meaning.

500 North Avenue LLC, v Planning Commission of the Town of Stratford, 199 Conn. App. 115 (7/21/2020).

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