Strategic Commercial Realty Inc. v. Canterbury Planning and Zoning Commission
A plaintiff who signs an option to purchase property may be classically aggrieved, for purposes of an appeal of a planning and zoning decision, even if the individual who signs the plaintiff's option on behalf of the owner is a former owner, and not a record owner of the property. The plaintiff owns an option to purchase property in a "rural district" and filed a request with the defendant planning and zoning commission for a special permit to build a bridge and to remove approximately 500,000 cubic yards of gravel. Agricultural and forestry uses are permitted as of right in the district. Terence Chambers, of KWP Associates, estimated that, if approved, the plaintiff's proposal would result in an additional 24 trips per day and that there would not be an adverse effect on traffic. Robert Stewart, of Stewart Appraisal Services, opined that there would not be an adverse effect on property values. P&Z members expressed concern about safety and road conditions. They added conditions and voted 4-2 against the proposal, without discussing whether its effect would be substantially greater than that of a similar agricultural or forestry venture at that location. The plaintiff appealed. The parties disputed whether the plaintiff was aggrieved, because the individual who signed the plaintiff's option to purchase on behalf of the owner was a former owner and was not a record owner. Allegedly, the individual who signed held himself out as the owner during negotiations. Eventually, the owner of record signed an assumption contract for the original contract. "[O]ne who has contracted to purchase property has standing to apply for a special exception or a variance governing its use," pursuant to Shulman v. Zoning Board of Appeals, a 1967 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The plaintiff possessed a substantial and legitimate interest in the property at the time the plaintiff filed its permit application. The court found that the plaintiff was classically aggrieved. The court also found that the P&Z failed to discuss whether permitted agricultural or forestry uses would have the same effect as the plaintiff's proposal. The court remanded to the P&Z.