Mountain Brook Association, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Wallingford
A local zoning regulation must be interpreted to intend a reasonable and rational result. The town of Wallingford's zoning enforcement officer, Mark DeVoe, issued a cease and desist order notifying the Mountain Brook Association, Inc., that various residents in its condominium were in violation of the zoning regulations because they had placed children's recreational equipment, sheds and fences on their property. The condominium units are located in an open space planned residential district. The association and individual unit owners appealed to the zoning board of appeals which upheld the cease and desist order. The plaintiffs appealed to the trial court which sustained the appeal. The defendant board appealed claiming that the trial court failed to interpret the zoning regulations properly. The Appellate Court disagreed with respect to the recreational equipment but agreed as to the sheds and fences given a lack of evidence that special permits were obtained. The judgment was affirmed and reversed in part and the matter remanded. The defendant acknowledged that one regulation permitted certain recreational facilities within the district but contended that an application of all of the relevant regulations limited such equipment to those that are centrally located for the use of all unit owners within the development. It would lead to a bizarre and unworkable result to interpret the regulations so that all recreation facilities whether in the open space or the limited common area, must be centrally located and not permitted at each unit. The term, "facility," was not defined in the regulations. The list of what fell within the dictionary definition of recreation facilities appeared virtually limitless. A lawn sprinkler used by children to cool off on a hot day, a lawn chair, a book, all facilitate recreation and, therefore, fell within the interpretation proposed by the defendant. This could not have been the intention of the drafters. The record provided no details regarding the children's recreational equipment at issue. Devoe's letter referred to them as "playsets." It was not clear how many, if any, were located in the open space. Given the record, it could not be concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the defendant's determination that the recreational equipment at issue fell within the regulation's definition of "recreation facilities." The trial court properly sustained the appeal as to this issue.