Goldstein v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Milford
A zoning board of appeals may not be required to ask questions, conduct site visits or explain its reasoning, in order to issue a valid opinion. In 2011, the plaintiffs installed gates on the seawall located on their property. Citizens complained that the gates were locked. A zoning enforcement officer found that the seawall violated the zoning provisions that govern fences. The plaintiffs appealed to the zoning board of appeals and argued that the gates promote public safety, because they prevent citizens from falling off the seawall. The ZEO claimed that the gates functioned as if they were a fence. At a hearing, the members of the zoning board of appeals asked the plaintiffs' attorney whether several gates, if attached, would qualify as a fence. The board considered whether a locked gate would act as a barrier. Two of the members of the board voted to overturn the ZEO's decision. The majority apparently upheld the zoning enforcement officer's cease-and-desist order. The plaintiffs appealed and argued that the gates did not qualify as a fence. The zoning regulations provide, "In the case of any yard which abuts Long Island Sound only, no fences/walls or shrub rows shall be permitted [within] the area located between the mean high water mark (boundary) and the applicable wall of the principal structure and a line extension projected perpendicular from the side property lines to the rear corners of the principal building." Substantial evidence supported the board's conclusion that the gates were locked and qualified as a fence. The plaintiffs failed to establish the board was not meticulous, because it failed to ask enough questions, to conduct a site visit or to explain its reasoning. The plaintiffs did not locate Connecticut court decisions and statutes that require that the board ask questions, conduct site visits or explain its reasoning. The plaintiffs failed to establish the board's decision could damage the public's safety and that the board acted against the public's interest when it enforced the zoning regulations. The board's decision was not arbitrary, illegal or an abuse of discretion, and the court dismissed the plaintiffs' appeal.