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A Further Tightening in the Standards for Variances?

Connecticut Law Tribune

February 22, 2016

Authors: Joseph P. Williams

Practicing land use law in Connecticut can be unpredictable and is heavily fact-driven, as no two parcels of property are alike. Nonetheless, there are certain rules of thumb. One is that in a court challenge to a zoning board of appeals decision on a variance application, usually the granting of a variance will be overturned and a denial will be upheld. This is due to the elusive “unusual hardship” test, which is regularly honored in the breach throughout our state but is very difficult to satisfy.

Recent decisions by state courts have ignited debate in the land use bar as to whether satisfying the hardship standard has become even more difficult. The most recent among them, Caruso v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Meriden, 320 Conn. 315, a Feb. 2 decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court, provides useful guidance to practitioners about what constitutes evidence of “practical confiscation” sufficient to justify the granting of a variance.

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