Level Development Corp. v. Pisani
To prevail on a "class of one," equal-protection claim, a plaintiff must establish he was treated differently from others who were similarly situated. In 2009, the City of Waterbury's planning and zoning commission changed a quarry's zoning from industrial to residential. The site had been used as a quarry since 1944. Quarrying is not permitted in a residential zone, even with a special permit, unless it constitutes a prior, nonconforming use. The P&Z found that quarrying on the plaintiff's property did not constitute a prior, nonconforming use. The plaintiff appealed to the Connecticut Superior Court, arguing the P&Z's decision was arbitrary, capricious and constituted an unconstitutional taking. He also filed a civil-rights suit in District Court, alleging the P&Z commissioners violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause and arbitrarily and capriciously refused to recognize the quarry as a prior, nonconforming use. The defendants moved for summary judgment. To prevail on a "class of one," equal-protection claim, the plaintiff must establish he was treated differently from other property owners who were similarly situated. The plaintiff maintained that other owners blasted and crushed rock for re-sale and were not required to obtain special permits. A reasonable juror could not find that the other property owners were similarly situated. Absent a similarly situated comparator, the plaintiff cannot prove his class-of-one, equal-protection claim. The court also found that the defendants, in their individual capacities, are entitled to immunity against claims for monetary damages. In the interests of comity and judicial efficiency, the District Court abstained from issuing a ruling on zoning claims that remain undecided in the first-filed state action. A District Court injunction or declaratory judgment could interfere with the state court's decision. Traditionally, zoning is a matter of local concern. The state court should decide whether the defendants' decision was arbitrary and capricious and constituted an unconstitutional taking. The court granted in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment and stayed any decision about whether the P&Z decisions to re-zone the property and to deny the plaintiff's request to find quarrying qualifies as a prior, nonconforming use were arbitrary and capricious.