Christian Activities Council, Congregational v. Town Council

In Christian Activities Council, Congregational v. Town Council, 249 Conn. 566, 735 A.2d 231 (1999), the Court identified the differences between an affordable housing land use appeal pursuant to 8-30g, and a traditional zoning appeal. "First, an appeal under 8-30g (b) may be filed only by an applicant for an affordable housing development whose application was denied or was approved with restrictions which have a substantial adverse impact on the viability of the affordable housing development or the degree of affordability of the affordable dwelling units . . . . Thus, where the town has granted such an application, either outright or without imposing such restrictions, there is no appeal under 8-30g (b). "Second, the scope of judicial review under 8-30g (c) requires the town, not the applicant, to marshal the evidence supporting its decision and to persuade the court that there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the town's decision and the reasons given for that decision. By contrast, in a traditional zoning appeal, the scope of review requires the appealing aggrieved party to marshal the evidence in the record, and to establish that the decision was not reasonably supported by the record. Protect Hamden/North Haven from Excessive Traffic & Pollution, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission, 220 Conn. 527, 542-43, 600 A.2d 757 (1991). "Third, if a town denies an affordable housing land use application, it must state its reasons on the record, and that statement must take the form of a formal, official, collective statement of reasons for its actions. Id., 544. By contrast, in a traditional zoning appeal, if a zoning agency has failed to give such reasons, the court is obligated to search the entire record to find a basis for the agency's decision. . . . "We reach this conclusion based on the text and the purpose of the statute. The text requires that the town establish that sufficient record evidence supports the decision from which such appeal is taken and the reasons cited for such decision . . . . General Statutes 8-30g (c) (1) (A). Thus, textually the statute contemplates reasons that are cited by the town. This strongly suggests that such reasons be cited by the zoning agency at the time it took its formal vote on the application, rather than reasons that later might be culled from the record, which would include, as in a traditional zoning appeal, the record of the entire span of hearings that preceded the vote. Furthermore, the statute requires that the town establish that: its decision was necessary to protect substantial public interests in health, safety, or other matters which the agency may legally consider; General Statutes 8-30g (c) (1) (B); those interests clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing; General Statutes 8-30g (c) (1) (C); and those public interests cannot be protected by reasonable changes to the plan. General Statutes 8-30g (c) (1) (D). These requirements strongly suggest that the town be obligated, when it renders its decision, to identify those specific public interests that it seeks to protect by that decision, so that the court in reviewing that decision will have a clear basis on which to do so. Furthermore, the key purpose of 8-30g is to encourage and facilitate the much needed development of affordable housing throughout the state. West Hartford Interfaith Coalition, Inc. v. Town Council, 228 Conn. 498, 511, 636 A.2d 1342 (1994). Requiring the town to state its reasons on the record when it denies an affordable housing land use application will further that purpose because it will help guard against possibly pretextual denials of such applications. We therefore read the statute, consistent with its text and purpose, to require the town to do so." Christian Activities Council, Congregational v. Town Council, supra, 249 Conn. 575-78.