Francini v. East Haddam et al
ORDER granting without prejudice 18 Motion to Dismiss. The Clerk shall close the case. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 5/26/2017. (Landman, M)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
No. 3:16-cv-1568 (SRU)
TOWN OF EAST HADDAM, EAST
HADDAM PLANNING & ZONING
COMMISSION, EMMETT J. LYMAN,
and JAMES F. VENTRES,
Ruling on Motion to Dismiss
On August 17, 2016, William Francini filed this action in state court against the Town of
East Haddam (the “Town”), East Haddam Planning & Zoning Commission, Emmett J. Lyman,
and James F. Ventres. On September 15, 2016, the action was removed to federal court. On
December 15, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. For the following reasons, the unopposed motion to dismiss is granted.
The complaint states that, on April 4, 1994, Francini made an application to the Town for
a building permit for a residence at 1 Connecticut River Road. Francini alleges that Ventres told
him that he could only apply for a “seasonal dwelling.” Compl. at ¶ 12. Relying on Ventres’
statement, Francini applied for a seasonal dwelling permit, which was subsequently approved.
Francini then built the house and made sure that it was built in compliance with year-round
building regulations. Because Francini only had a seasonal dwelling permit, however, he is
unable to use the house from November 1 to April 14, every year. Id. at ¶ 15.
Because the house is otherwise “suitable for year-round living,” Francini spoke with
Ventres about applying for a year-round use permit. Ventres told Francini that, because the lot
was less than one-half acre in size, the property did not qualify for a conversion from seasonal
use to year-round use. Id. at ¶ 16.
Francini also alleges that he previously owned another property in that area, 3
Connecticut River Road, which was similarly denied year-round status by the Town. Id. at ¶ 17.
As a result of the fact that the home on that property was classified as a seasonal use dwelling,
Francini was unable to sell the property at the price he believes it was worth. Id. at ¶ 22.
Francini filed the instant action on account of what he believes to be an unfair application
of the zoning regulations. Count One seeks declaratory relief, alleging that the failure to permit
him to use his property year-round violates state and federal law. Count Two claims a violation
of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the regulations prohibiting him from using his property are
applied in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution. Count Three claims a stand-alone violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments, alleging that the regulations constitute an unconstitutional taking without just
Standard of Review
“A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1)
when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Makarova v.
United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). A party that moves to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction “may refer to evidence outside the pleadings.” Id. (quoting Kamen v.
American Tel. & Tel. Co., 791 F.2d 1006, 1011 (2d Cir. 1986)). To survive a motion brought
under Rule 12(b)(1), a plaintiff “has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence
that [subject matter jurisdiction] exists.” Id. (citing Malik v. Meissner, 82 F.3d 560, 562 (2d Cir.
A. Federal Claims
Francini argues that the regulations preventing him from using his properties year-round
constitute an unconstitutional taking, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and an unequal
application of the law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.
Francini seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. The defendants argue that Francini’s
federal claims fail because they are not ripe for adjudication.
Ripeness is a “constitutional prerequisite to exercise of jurisdiction by federal courts.”
Federal Election Commission v. Central Long Island Tax Reform Immediately Committee, 616
F.2d 45, 51 (2d Cir. 1980). The ripeness doctrine requires a claim to “grow out of a real,
substantial controversy between parties involving a dispute definite and concrete.” Marchi v. Bd.
of Coop. Educ. Servs. of Albany, 173 F.3d 469, 478 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “A claim is not ripe if it depends upon contingent future events that may not occur as
anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all.” Nat’l Org. for Marriage, Inc. v. Walsh, 714 F.3d
682, 687 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). The requirement of a real
controversy “is intended to prevent the courts, through avoidance of premature adjudication,
from entangling themselves in abstract disagreements.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
In Williamson Cty. Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, the
Supreme Court identified a two-part test to determine whether a so-called “takings” claim is ripe
for adjudication. 473 U.S. 172, 186, 194 (1985). First, “a claim that the application of
government regulations effects a taking of a property interest is not ripe until the government
entity charged with implementing the regulations has reached a final decision regarding the
application of the regulations to the property at issue.” Williamson, 473 U.S. at 186. Second, a
claim will not be ripe unless the plaintiff sought “compensation through the procedures the State
has provided for doing so.” Id. at 194. “The ripeness requirement of Williamson, although
announced in a takings context, has been extended to equal protection and due process claims
asserted in the context of land use challenges.” Dougherty v. Town of N. Hempstead Bd. of
Zoning Appeals, 282 F.3d 83, 88 (2d Cir. 2002).
In the instant case, the defendants argue that Francini’s federal claims are not ripe
because the Town never reached a final decision with respect to Francini’s two properties. In the
land use context, a plaintiff cannot assert that the governmental entity’s decision is final if the
plaintiff has not yet sought an available variance to the applicable regulation. See Williamson,
473 U.S. at 191. Francini has not alleged that he sought variances from the regulations
governing either property. Rather, he alleges that his other property at 3 Connecticut River Road
was improperly classified as a seasonal use dwelling, id. at ¶ 17, and that he was told his
property at 1 Connecticut River Road did not qualify for year-round use, Compl. at ¶ 16. Neither
allegation indicates that the Town has reached a final decision with respect to whether Francini
would be (or would have been) eligible for variances for either property. Because the ripeness
requirement has been extended to apply equal protection and due process claims arising out of
land use challenges, all of Francini’s federal claims must be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The fact that Francini seeks declaratory and injunctive relief does not absolve him
from the requirement to seek a final decision from the governmental entity charged with an
unconstitutional taking of Francini’s property. See Severance v. Patterson, 566 F.3d 490, 497
(5th Cir. 2009).
B. State Claim
The defendants argue that Francini’s state law claim for declaratory relief must also be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Francini has failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies. “Under [Connecticut’s] exhaustion of administrative remedies
doctrine, a trial court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an action that seeks a remedy that
could be provided through an administrative proceeding, unless and until that remedy has been
sought in the administrative forum . . . .” Levine v. Town of Sterling, 300 Conn. 521, 528 (2011).
If a plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies, the court must dismiss the action for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id.
Francini’s state law claim fails for the same reasons the federal claims fail. Francini has
not alleged that he was exhausted his administrative remedies and has not alleged any facts
indicating that it would have been futile to do so. Accordingly, that claim is dismissed for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss (doc. # 18) is granted without prejudice
and the complaint is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Clerk shall close the
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut, this 26th day of May 2017.
/s/ STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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