Attorneys Michael Ryan and Jonathan Zellner Obtain Summary Judgment in Takings Case

December 7, 2020

On December 7, 2020, Attorneys Michael Ryan and Jonathan Zellner obtained summary judgment in a federal lawsuit by a property owner who claimed that municipal officials engaged in a taking of his property, in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The plaintiff had applied for a building permit to construct a single-family house on the subject property.  Because of issues concerning the lack of required road frontage for the proposed home and concerns about wetlands soils on the property, the plaintiff did not obtain a building permit or a variance from the local zoning regulations.  The plaintiff sued the municipality and various municipal officials and commissioners in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, alleging that the defendants’ actions deprived him of the ability to develop the property.  He alleged that the defendants’ actions amounted to an unconstitutional “taking” of the property, violated his equal protection rights, and inversely condemned the property.

 Attorneys Ryan and Zellner moved for summary judgment on behalf of the defendants, arguing that the defendants’ actions did not constitute a taking of the property or inversely condemn it and that the defendants had not violated the plaintiff’s equal protection rights.  In a detailed memorandum of decision, the Honorable Kari Dooley agreed with the defendants, finding that the defendants had not deprived the property of all economically viable use, that the defendants’ actions advanced legitimate ends sought through the local zoning and inland wetlands regulations, and that the plaintiff was ultimately responsible for his failure to obtain a building permit or variance.  The court likewise granted summary judgment for the defendants on the plaintiff’s equal protection claim, finding that the plaintiff was not similarly situated to neighboring property owners with whom he sought to compare himself and whom he claimed had received more favorable treatment from the town.