MacKenzie v. Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Monroe
Nothing in the Connecticut General Statutes authorizes a planning and zoning commission to adopt regulations empowering itself to vary the application of the zoning regulations when acting on a special exception request. The Planning and Zoning Commission of the town of Monroe granted a special exception to the defendant, Real Time Investments, LLC, and approved its zone change request from "Residential and Farming District C" to DB1, "Design Business District 1," to construct a McDonald's restaurant. Owners of property within 100 feet of the defendant's property, including Donna MacKenzie, appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the commission had no authority to waive the parking area setback and landscaped buffer requirements in the zoning regulations. The trial court dismissed the appeal. The plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed and reversed the judgment, in part, agreeing with the plaintiffs' principal claim that the commission lacked authority to vary the setback and landscape buffer requirements of the DB1 zone. The claim was not mooted by the commission's approval of a zone change for the rear portion of the abutting property to DB1. The proposed parking area continued to violate the minimum yard setback of the regulations and practical relief could be afforded to the plaintiffs. The defendant unsuccessfully argued that the regulations conferred on the commission the power to vary or waive the applicable regulatory requirements "on a case-by-case basis" and the decision to vary the setback and landscaped buffer requirements fell within the reasonable degree of discretion afforded to the commission acting in its legislative capacity. The intra-district uniformity requirement in C.G.S. §8-2 precludes case-by-case variance of regulatory requirements by the zoning commission in a given district. The commission acted in its administrative capacity in granting the special exception request. In varying the setback and landscaped buffer requirements as part of its special exception approval, the commission neither created a new zoning district nor amended the zoning regulations. Because the plan approved by the commission plainly did not comply with the setback and landscaped buffer requirements, the decision to approve the special exception was improper. The matter remanded with direction to sustain this part of the appeal. The zone change remained valid. The plaintiffs' challenge to the sufficiency of the description in the notice of the proposed zone change failed.