Hocap Corp. v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Bridgeport
To obtain a variance an applicant must establish: 1.) the variance will not affect substantially the municipal plan (i.e., the zoning regulations and the map) and 2.) adherence to a zoning regulation will cause unusual hardship. In November 2006, the defendant, 500 North Avenue LLC, obtained a variance to operate a liquor package store. The following month, the defendant requested another variance, to operate a restaurant and billiards business in the same building as the package store. The defendant maintained that the property's shape led to a hardship and requested that the board of appeals waive the 1,500-foot rule. The rule provides that the entrance of a building that is used for the sale of alcohol may not be located within 1,500 feet of the entrance of another building that is used for the sale of alcohol. The defendant maintained that different types of liquor establishments ought to be allowed to co-exist, and previously the ZBA waived the 1,500 foot rule for other establishments. The ZBA granted another variance. The plaintiff appealed and argued that there was no hardship, and the proposed use was not permitted in a light industrial zone. A variance must be based on property conditions. There was evidence that the defendant's restaurant will compliment other businesses, and that the neighborhood will not be affected adversely. The defendant met the requirement that the variance will not affect substantially the municipal plan. A variance may not be granted on the ground that other variances previously have been granted. The approval of a variance in November did not require the approval of another variance, for the same property, the following month. "The 'irregular shape' of the property," wrote the court, "is not relevant, to any claim of 'hardship' concerning the 1,500 foot rule." If the zoning regulations require revision, that is the province of the planning and zoning commission. The defendant failed to establish a hardship, as a result of potential economic loss, or the shape of the property, or the earlier decision that another part of the property qualified for a variance. The court sustained the plaintiff's appeal.