Cohen v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Bridgeport
To obtain a variance, an applicant must establish that the variance will not affect the comprehensive zoning plan substantially and that adherence to the zoning ordinance will cause an unusual hardship. Allen Hill, who purchased or leased property in Bridgeport, requested a variance to permit the re-establishment of a café and the issuance of a café liquor permit in an office retail zone. Hill's application claimed that there was an unusual hardship, because the café had been closed and had required renovations as a result of a storm. At the public hearing and during the zoning board of appeals' discussion, there was no reference to an unusual hardship. The defendant zoning board of appeals granted the application for a variance. The zoning board of appeals stated that the variance would not have a negative effect on the neighborhood and that the café had existed at that particular location for more than 50 years. The plaintiff appealed to the Superior Court, which observed that Hill's petition for a variance did not include explanations of the zoning regulation from which the variance was requested, the merits of the variance or how a variance relates to the purposes of zoning. The court found that the zoning board of appeals should have rejected the petition, because it failed to comply with application requirements. Even if the petition had complied with application requirements, the zoning board of appeals should not have approved, because it did not find that there was an unusual hardship, and there was no evidence of an unusual hardship in the record. Proof of an unusual hardship is absolutely necessary, as a condition precedent to the granting of a zoning variance, pursuant to the Connecticut Appellate Court's 2003 decision, Dupont v. Zoning Board of Appeals. The zoning board of appeals' decision was arbitrary, illegal and an abuse of discretion, and the court vacated the decision to approve a variance.