Description: Neighbor's lawsuit challenging variances granted for the rebuilding of a "sea cottage" damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
Mayer-Wittmann v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Stamford
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 11/05/2019 Opinion Download Opinion issued affirming trial court determination that the zoning board properly granted application for variances. Connecticut High Court Upheld Variances to Allow Rebuilding of Sea Cottage in Flood-Prone Area. The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld variances granted for the reconstruction of a “sea cottage” severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Because the cost of repairs exceeded 50% of the sea cottage’s value, the reconstructed cottage was required to comply with certain current City of Stamford regulations for structures in flood-prone areas, including a minimum elevation requirement, even though the cottage was a legally nonconforming structure. To satisfy the elevation requirement, however, the owner had to obtain variances from building height and setback requirements. A neighbor challenged the variances. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with the cottage owner and the City of Stamford that the minimum flood elevation requirement applied even though the cottage was legally nonconforming, noting that the City had to impose a minimum standard of floodplain management regulation to be eligible for the National Flood Insurance Program. The court also cited the “crucial role” that zoning regulations for flood-prone areas play in responding to the threat of coastal flooding, which would be exacerbated by climate change. The court further found that the cottage owner established the existence of an “unusual hardship” warranting approval of the height and setback variances because enforcement of the height and setback restrictions would have deprived the owner of his constitutionally protected right to continue using the cottage.