Center Shops of East Granby, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission
In Center Shops of East Granby, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission, 253 Conn. 183, 757 A.2d 1052 (2000) the Court strictly limited SSM Associates Ltd. Partnership to its facts because the use sought was a permitted use, and the parties stipulated that the site plan and special permit applications were inseparable. Center Shops of East Granby, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission, supra, 253 Conn. at 190-92.
The court went on to hold that "when a site plan is separable from its accompanying documents and the special permit application is for a use not permitted as of right, the provisions of 8-3 (g) are not applicable and the time constraints specified in General Statutes 8-7d do not control." Center Shops of East Granby, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission, supra, 193.
The Court answered "no" to the question of "whether a site plan is inseparably entwined with an application for a special permit to which it is related, thereby ensuring that . . . 8-3 and 8-7d, which provide for automatic approval of site plan applications, would apply equally to the submission of a site plan and to its related special permit." Id., 184.
In Center Shops of East Granby, Inc., the commission failed more than once to provide proper notice of a public hearing to consider the applicants' requests for a special exception permit and approval of site plans. After the applicants failed to agree to further extensions of time, the commission denied the application for a special permit and approval of an accompanying site plan and denied a separate application for approval of a revised site plan.
The applicants filed a writ of mandamus seeking approval of their applications because the commission failed to give proper notice of the public hearing and because the commission failed to render a decision on the site plans in a timely fashion. The applicants alleged that the purported hearings on the applications were nullities and that the statutory violations resulted in automatic approval of both applications.
After distinguishing several cases, notably, SSM Associates Ltd. Partnership v. Plan & Zoning Commission, 211 Conn. 331, 559 A.2d 196 (1989), the Court concluded that "when a site plan is separable from its accompanying documents and the special permit application is for a use not permitted as of right, the provisions of 8-3 (g) are not applicable and the time constraints specified in 8-7d do not control." Center Shops of East Granby, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission, supra, 193.
The court in Center Shops of East Granby, Inc., noted that, generally, applications for site plans are separate from applications for special permits. In the absence of facts showing that the special permit application is for a permitted use for which no hearing is required and that the special permit application is integral to and virtually indistinguishable from the site plan application, "and unless otherwise set forth in the relevant town regulations, the special permit and the site plan are not inseparable and, therefore, do not meld into a single entity warranting application of the statutory provisions regarding automatic approval." Id., 191.
"A specially permitted use enjoys a unique status in a town's planning and zoning scheme because it generally is not restricted to a particular zoning district. The basic rationale for the special permit is . . . that while certain specially permitted land uses may be generally compatible with the uses permitted as of right in particular zoning districts, their nature is such that their precise location and mode of operation must be regulated because of the topography, traffic problems, neighboring uses, etc., of the site. Common specially permitted uses, for example, are hospitals, churches and schools in residential zones. These uses are not as intrusive as commercial uses would be, yet they do generate parking and traffic problems that, if not properly planned for, might undermine the residential character of the neighborhood. If authorized only upon the granting of a special permit which may be issued after the zoning board is satisfied that parking and traffic problems have been satisfactorily worked out, land usage in the community can be more flexibly arranged than if schools, churches and similar uses had to be allowed anywhere within a particular zoning district, or not at all." Id., 191-92.