• Connecticut Supreme Court
  • Connecticut Supreme Court
  • SC 18872
  • Apr 23 2013 (Date Decided)
  • Eveleigh, J.

The plain meaning of the term "building," as used in Connecticut General Statutes §8-13a(a), refers to an edifice designed to stand permanently, with a roof and walls. Dean and Robin Tine obtained a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals of the town of Lebanon to construct a single family residence on their lakefront property. The variance allowed the building to extend 35 feet into an otherwise prohibited setback area, designed to protect the lake's water quality. Zoning and building permits issued. The town building official made inspections. Construction ended in 2003. The house conformed with the construction plans and did not include a deck. In 2004, without notifying the town or obtaining building permits, the Tines constructed a deck, not visible from the street, extending 12 feet toward the lake beyond the permitted setback. In 2008, in connection with the sale of the property, the Tines sought certificates of zoning compliance and occupancy. The zoning enforcement officer discovered the deck and issued a notice of violation and cease and desist order. The board denied a second variance and the Tines' appeal, claiming that the enforcement action was untimely under C.G.S. §8-13a(a), because the violation existed for more than three years. The trial court reversed the decision, concluding that the deck was a "building" under C.G.S. §8-13a(a) and, therefore, the three year statute of limitations in C.G.S. §8-13a(a) applied. The board and enforcement officer appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment. The deck was not a "building" under C.G.S. §8-13a(a) and the enforcement action was timely. C.G.S. §8-13a(a) does not define "building." Dictionary definitions supported a construction of the term as an edifice with walls and a roof. Other statutory provisions demonstrated that the legislature, aware of the difference between a building and other structures, knows how to make specific reference to all structures when intended. Because C.G.S. §8-13a(a) applies only to "buildings," defining "building" to include all "structures" would produce absurd and unworkable results. The plain meaning of "building" in C.G.S. §8-13a(a), refers to an edifice designed to stand permanently, with a roof and walls. The Tines' deck had neither, and, by itself, was not a "building" under the statute.  Further, the deck was not immune from an enforcement action as an integral and necessary part of the house.