Petrillo v. East Haven Zoning Board of Appeals
An individual who applies for a variance must furnish proof of exceptional difficulty or unusual hardship, even if the individual owned the property prior to the enactment of zoning regulations in the municipality. Richard Esposito, who purchased a parcel of property in East Haven, prior to the enactment of zoning regulations, decided to build a canopy over his deck. Esposito was ordered to cease and desist. Esposito requested a variance, to increase the amount of lot coverage from 20 to 42 percent and to reduce rear and sideyard setback requirements. Esposito claimed that a hardship existed, because his parcel was very small and existed before the municipal zoning regulations were enacted. The zoning board of appeals granted his application without explaining its reasoning. John Petrillo, who owns property that abuts Esposito's property, appealed to the Superior Court. "The authority of a zoning board of appeals to grant a variance is controlled by statute, and §8-6(a)(3) does not allow a variance unless the applicant proves that there is an exceptional difficulty or unusual hardship," pursuant to Morikawa v. Zoning Board of Appeals, a 2011 decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. "Proof of exceptional difficulty or unusual hardship is absolutely necessary as a condition precedent to the granting of a zoning variance," pursuant to Stancuna v. Zoning Board of Appeals, a 2001 decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. Here, the Superior Court was unable to find any evidence that Esposito's property would lack value, if the request for a variance were denied, or that an exceptional difficulty or hardship existed. The court sustained the plaintiff's appeal and vacated the decision of the zoning board of appeals.