Breaking Ground: Connecticut’s Top Court Tilts Tables in Favor of Developers

07.27.2022
Economy


The following article was first posted by
Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP. It is reposted here with permission.


In an important and positive case for the real estate development community, the Connecticut Supreme Court has dramatically reduced the amount of discretion a local zoning commission has when reviewing a special permit application.

In McLoughlin v. Planning & Zoning Commission of the Town of Bethel, the court held that while a commission may deny a special permit based on the applicant’s failure to comply with general standards in a municipality’s zoning regulations, even if it complies fully with applicable technical standards, it can only do so based on site-specific evidence and not general, speculative evidence.

In McLoughlin, Bethel’s P & Z Commission denied the applicant’s special permit application to operate a crematory because of supposed negative impacts on the surrounding environment, property values, and development potential.

While agreeing these general provisions could be sufficient grounds to deny a special permit application, the court held that the basis for the commission’s decision inappropriately focused on fears surrounding the operation of crematories in general (and not the specific crematory at issue), development decisions motivated by general objections, and evidence not pertinent to the required considerations. 

The court reversed the decision and ordered the approval of the special permit application.

Consequences

The McLoughlin ruling has important and positive consequences for development in Connecticut. 

This ruling means that zoning commissions must make a case-by-case, evidence-based examination of each special permit application, and may not rely on speculation or generalized statements about the kind of project being developed. 

Ultimately, project-specific, evidence-based reviews will make land use decisions more predictable, reliable and help mitigate unnecessary litigation.

The full opinion is available from the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch.


About the author: William J. Hennessey Jr. is a partner at Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP. His practice is concentrated on planning, zoning and related land use issues.

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