St. Vincent De Paul Place v. City of Norwich
A complaint alleging that municipal land-use regulations are burdensome, discriminatory and unreasonable may not yet be ripe for review, if the plaintiff's application to a zoning board for a variance remains undecided and could be granted. The plaintiff, St. Vincent De Paul Place, is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Diocese that operates a soup kitchen and provides shelter and services to the homeless. In July 2012, St. Vincent was evicted from its former Railroad Place premises in Norwich, when the landlord informed it that the building was structurally compromised. St. Vincent obtained a temporary, six-month zoning permit to occupy property adjacent to a church on Cliff Street. In September 2012, St. Vincent requested a special permit. In December, the plan commission denied the zoning permit. The zoning enforcement officer informed St. Vincent that its occupation of Cliff Street was illegal and violated the building code. St. Vincent appealed to the zoning board of appeals. In February 2013, St. Vincent also requested a variance from the zoning board of appeals. St. Vincent sued the city, alleging that the city's burdensome, discriminatory and unreasonable land-use regulations barred the free exercise of religion, in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, Connecticut's Religious Freedom Act and 42 United States Code §1983. The city moved to dismiss and argued that St. Vincent's claims were not yet ripe for review. St. Vincent failed to prove its application for a variance was futile or merely remedial. The District Court found that St. Vincent's complaint was not yet ripe for review. "[Plaintiff's] injury is merely speculative and may never occur," wrote the court, "depending on the final administrative resolution of [plaintiff's] variance application." The court granted the city's motion to dismiss.