NAHB Helps in Legal Win on Housing Development Permitting and Zoning

Contact: Thomas Ward
VP, Legal Advocacy
(202) 266-8230

NAHB recently supported a lawsuit in Connecticut that resulted in a win for NAHB members and all builders and developers in the state and a blow to NIMBYs opposing development.

In August 2021, NAHB filed an amicus brief with the Connecticut Supreme Court in the case of International Investors v. Town Plan and Zoning Commission of the Town of Fairfield. The issue in the case was whether the Town of Fairfield legally extended the time for the developer, Fairfield Commons, to complete construction of its project.

International Investors, a nearby landowner that opposed the development, claimed that Fairfield Commons’ special permit expired in 2011, and that subsequent extensions made by the Town after 2011 were invalid. Fairfield Commons argued that because special permits and site plans are closely related, the timing to complete construction must be based on the timing that state statutes allow for site plans, which is 14 years.

NAHB’s brief supported Fairfield Commons highlighting the problems that would occur if a special permit expired on one date, but the date to complete the project under the site plan statute was a different date.

A lower court ruled for International Investors. The decision sent tremors through the Connecticut real estate community because it had effectively allowed zoning commissions to impose short, ad-hoc time limits on completion of construction that could be far shorter than state law regarding site plans.

On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed and ruled for Fairfield Commons. It found that special permits and site plans are bound together. Therefore, a town has no authority to condition a special permit with a due date before the statutory due date provided for site plans. This decision maintains predictability for development in Connecticut, which is a win for NAHB builder and developer members.

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