Miller v. Environmental Protection Commission of the Town of Darien
Plaintiffs may appeal the denial of their request to amend an inland wetlands and watercourses map, even if their subsequent application is granted, if the conditions attached to the subsequent application require that the plaintiffs submit to ongoing inspections. Hillary and Dale Miller own property that abuts and includes portions of a lagoon. The Millers requested that the Environmental Protection Commission of the Town of Darien amend the inland wetlands and watercourses map, which shows the lagoon as an inland watercourse, so that the Millers can conduct development activities in the upland review area without a permit. The commission denied the Millers' request, and the Millers appealed to the Superior Court. The commission moved to dismiss and argued that the Millers' appeal was moot, because the Millers filed a subsequent application, and the commission granted conditioned approval of their subsequent request to work on a septic system and to grade the upland review area. As conditions, the commission required that the Millers pay $100 and submit to inspections. "Justiciability requires 1.) that there be an actual controversy between or among the parties to the dispute . . . 2.) that the interest of the parties be adverse . . . 3.) that the matter in controversy be capable of being adjudicated by judicial power and . . . 4.) that the determination of the controversy will result in practical relief to the complainant," pursuant to the Connecticut Supreme Court's 2007 decision, Statewide Grievance Committee v. Burton. "When, during the pendency of an appeal, events have occurred that preclude [a] . . . court from granting any practical relief through its disposition on the merits, a case has become moot," pursuant to the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision in Windells v. Environmental Protection Commission. A justiciable controversy exists, because the Millers protest the commission's continued assertion of jurisdiction. "[I]n every step of the development," wrote the Superior Court, "the Commission by virtue of its unannounced site inspections and other requirements will continue to assert jurisdiction over the property." The Millers' appeal is not moot, and the court denied the motion to dismiss.