Wesfair Partners LLC v. City Plan Commission of the City of Waterbury
A court can overturn the denial of a special permit application, if substantial evidence in the records fails to support a planning and zoning commission's rationale. The plaintiff, Wesfair Partners, applied to the City Plan Commission for a special permit to build 48 dwelling units on 4.96 acres of property located in a residential zone. The City Plan Commission denied the application, and the plaintiff appealed. As a result of evidence that drivers often exceed the speed limit of 25 miles per hour and drive 40 to 45 miles per hour, several commissioners expressed concern that if the plaintiff's proposal were approved, traffic safety would deteriorate. Although there was no written explanation or decision from the commission, the court found that the commission denied the application because of traffic safety. When it reviews special permit applications, the commission may consider traffic safety and the welfare of the community. The court applied the "substantial evidence" standard, which requires that the court affirm the decision of the commission, if substantial evidence in the record supports the decision. Here, the police department, fire department and the city engineer approved the plaintiff's proposal. There was no evidence that the plaintiff's application, if approved, would affect traffic to an extent greater than a use permitted as of right. "The plaintiff's application," wrote the court, "conformed to prevailing traffic standards when measured against posted speed limits, providing adequate sight lines and levels of service." Substantial evidence in the record failed to support the commission's decision, and the court sustained the plaintiff's appeal.