2008 Ct. Sup. 4736, 45 CLR 239
No. CV 07-4029972Connecticut Superior Court Judicial District of Hartford at Hartford
March 20, 2008
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
JERRY WAGNER, JUSTICE.TRAIL REFEREE.
This is an appeal by 190 Farmington LLC and Pasquale Lampugnale, from a decision of the defendant, Plan and Zoning Commission of West Hartford issued April 12, 2007 denying an application for a three-lot subdivision entitled Soby Estates on that grounds that lot no. 1 did not meet the “minimum lot width” requirement of the West Hartford zoning ordinance.
This appeal was heard on March 5, 2008, when plaintiffs, the respective owners and contract purchasers of the subdivision were found to be aggrieved and the intervening parties, William M. Gorra and Christine M. Brunette appeared, and were heard along with the named parties.
The subdivision is in an R-20 zone which requires a minimum lot area of 20,000 square feel per dwelling, a minimum lot depth of 140 feet and a minimum lot width of 110 feet.
Without reviewing the entire procedural history of the subdivision application, the sole issue presented in this appeal concerns the correct method of measuring the width of Lot No. 1.
Lot No. 1, located on the northerly end of the subdivision is bounded easterly by Ela Way, 124.50 feet; southerly by Lot No. 2,187.62 feet, westerly by land of Gorra, et. al, 46.7 feet and northwesterly by a curved line having a radius of 175 feet connecting the northerly terminus of the westerly boundary with the westerly terminus of the easterly boundary for a distance of 171.91 feet. The resulting lot is thus irregularly shaped with the measured width on the east being 124.50 feet and the measured width on the west being 46.7 feet, creating a mathematical problem in ascertaining the correct width of Lot No. 1.
The Zoning Code in Sec. 177.2 defines lot width as follows:
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LOT WIDTH — The horizontal distance, measured at right angles and in the center of the depth of the lot. In determining the required width of the lot, any portion of the lot which is in excess of the minimum lot area need not be included. The required lot width shall not include any area of the driveway which is used to provide access to a rear lot from the street. [Amended 8-22-1989]
Relying solely on this definition, appellant projects a single horizontal line from and at right angles to the southerly boundary line from a point halfway the average depth of the lot, resulting in a width of 116.9 feet, sufficient to meet the minimum width requirement.
The town relies primarily on section 177 of the Zoning Code, Attachment three, entitled “Town of West Hartford Standards for One-Family Residence Districts,” consisting of a ten-column grid for each of the residential districts, with the second column entitled “Average Lot Width”, and showing the width required in a R-20 zone as 110 feet. Under the authority of this attachment, the town measured the width of Lot No. 1 by means of horizontal lines drawn parallel to the easterly (and front) boundary, at evenly-spaced intervals of approximately 10 feet, concluding that the average width of Lot No. 1 was only 96 feet, and therefore the projected lot did not meet zoning requirements.
The “minimum width” reference contained in the West Hartford code is somewhat unusual, pertaining in only a few towns and no judicial authority has addressed the appropriate engineering principles involved in measuring lot width or average lot width.
It seems clear, however, that Attachment three of section 177, with its schedule of “average lot width” relied upon by the Commission is as much a part of the zoning code as the definition section of 177.2, relied upon by appellants.
Appellants claim that its horizontal line measuring lot width started “roughly in the center of the depth of the lot.” However, it appears that in ascertaining the midpoint of the depth of the lot, as a starting point to extend its horizontal line, appellant relied on the definition of “lot depth” in section 177.2, which is the “mean horizontal distance between the front and rear lines . . .” (Emphasis added.) It would be somewhat inconsistent to use a measure of lot depth by employing a “mean” to fix the midway point at which the horizontal width is CT Page 4738 projected and at the same time not utilize some method of ascertaining the applicable width of a lot without reference to a method of computation which used a mean or average measurement.
The method used by the town in measuring lot width utilizing an average based on evenly spaced intervals is not unreasonable and is supported by the schedule in Attachment three. It is true that the method of computing the average minimum width including the spacing of the intervals is not spelled out in the Zoning Code but its utilization of ten-foot intervals cannot be said to be unreasonable. It is not disputed that any other spaced intervals utilized to reach an “average” width would not result in a width of the required 110 feet.
Our Supreme Court has stated:
Generally, it is the function of the zoning board or commission to decide within prescribed limits and consistent with the exercise of [its] legal discretion, whether a particular section of the zoning regulations applies to a given situation and the manner in which it does apply.
Schwartz v. Planning Zoning Commission, 208 Conn. 146, 152, 543 A.2d 1339 (1988).
As appellants point out when a planning commission acts in an administrative capacity in considering a subdivision application, the court must uphold its decision if the commission has reasonably and fairly executed its honest judgment after a full hearing. Krawski v. Planning and Zoning Commission, 21 Conn.App. 671 (1990). No claim has been made that there was not a full hearing; indeed there were several full hearings, and it cannot be concluded that the Commission’s decision was illegal, arbitrary or unreasonable.
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