Leydon v. Greenwich

Decision Date26 July 2001
Citation777 A.2d 552,257 Conn. 318
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Officially released July 26, 20011.


Ralph G. Elliot, for the appellants in Docket No. 16356 (named defendant et al.).

Mark R. Kravitz, with whom, on the brief, were Suzanne E. Wachsstock and Dylan S. Calsyn, for the appellant in Docket No. 16357 (Lucas Point Association, Inc.).

Brenden P. Leydon, pro se, the appellee in both cases (plaintiff).

Toya Alek Graham, Philip D. Tegeler and Martin B. Margulies filed a brief for the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union Foundation as amicus curiae.

Russell L. Brenneman, filed a brief for the commissioner of environmental protection as amicus curiae.



This certified appeal raises an important issue of first impression in this state, namely, whether a municipality constitutionally may restrict access to a municipal park to its residents and their guests. We conclude that such a restriction is prohibited by the first amendment to the United States constitution2 and article first, §§ 4,3 54 and 14,5 of the Connecticut constitution.

The plaintiff, Brenden P. Leydon, commenced this action against the named defendant, the town of Greenwich (town), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the enforcement of a town ordinance6 limiting access to Greenwich Point Park (Greenwich Point), a town park with a beachfront on the Long Island Sound, to residents of the town and their guests.7 Thereafter, the defendant Lucas Point Association, Inc. (association), which owns a road located on property adjacent to Greenwich Point over which the town holds an easement providing the only means of land access to Greenwich Point, successfully moved to intervene. Following a court trial, the court rejected the plaintiffs claims and rendered judgment for the defendants.8 On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the trial court, concluding that the ordinance violates a state common-law doctrine pursuant to which municipal parks are deemed to be held in trust for the benefit of the general public and not solely for the use of residents of the municipality. Leydon v. Greenwich, 57 Conn. App. 712, 719, 750 A.2d 1122 (2000). The Appellate Court remanded the case to the trial court with direction to render judgment for the plaintiff; id., 727; who, as we have indicated, sought injunctive and declaratory relief against both the town and the association. Thereafter, we granted the town's petition for certification to appeal limited to the following issue: "Did the Appellate Court properly conclude that the plaintiff was entitled as a matter of law to an injunction enjoining the [town] from limiting the use of Greenwich Point, including its beach area, to inhabitants of the town?" Leydon v. Greenwich, 254 Conn. 904, 755 A.2d 881 (2000). We also granted the association's petition for certification to appeal limited to the following issue: "Did the Appellate Court properly conclude, in effect, that the plaintiff was entitled as a matter of law to an injunction enjoining the [association] from limiting the use of the easement that it had granted to the ... town ... to residents of the town?" Leydon v. Greenwich, 254 Conn. 905, 755 A.2d 882 (2000).

With respect to the town's appeal, we agree with the Appellate Court that the plaintiff is entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief barring the town from restricting the use of Greenwich Point to town residents and their guests. Our conclusion, however, rests not on common-law principles, but, rather, on the federal and state constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of association. With respect to the association's appeal, we agree with the Appellate Court that the plaintiff is entitled to a declaratory judgment against the association. We disagree with the Appellate Court, however, that the plaintiff also is entitled to injunctive relief against the association.


The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of this case. Greenwich Point is a town owned, 147 acre park facility that includes a beachfront on the Long Island Sound. The park area contains a number of ponds, a marina, a parking lot, open fields, a nature preserve, shelters, walkways and trails, and picnic areas with picnic tables. There also is a library book drop located on the beach.

The only land access to Greenwich Point is over a narrow, broccoli stem shaped piece of land known as Tod's Driftway (driftway), which is owned by the association, a private association of landowners who reside in the residential area adjacent to Greenwich Point. The town holds an easement over a private road on the driftway that provides the only means by which a person seeking to enter Greenwich Point by land may do so.

The Greenwich Point area, the driftway and the surrounding area all originally were owned by Frelinghuysen Ferris. Ferris conveyed the Greenwich Point area to J. Kennedy Tod on March 30, 1892. Ferris later granted an easement over the driftway to Tod on October 17, 1892, while retaining title to the driftway and other land. The easement permitted Tod to construct a road over the driftway connecting Greenwich Point to the mainland highway and to use that road to access his property.

Soon after Ferris granted the easement to Tod, Ferris transferred the driftway and surrounding areas in fee simple to Edwin J. Lucas. Those two areas became known as Lucas Point. After Tod's completion of the road over the driftway around 1909, Tod and Lucas amended and reaffirmed the terms of Tod's easement over the driftway. The boundaries of both properties, as set forth in a 1915 survey that listed the Greenwich Point parcel at approximately 147.21 acres, were the same as the boundaries currently in place.

Tod maintained Greenwich Point as a residence until his death on July 16, 1926, upon which he devised it to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (hospital), subject to a possessory life estate in Tod's wife. Tod's wife died in 1938, at which time the hospital became the fee owner of Greenwich Point. During the 1920s and 1930s, Lucas developed Lucas Point into a residential area. In 1942, the homeowners on Lucas Point formed and incorporated the association. On June 20, 1950, after Lucas' death, his executor recorded the transfer of all rights in the driftway to the association, although it appears that the association had been the beneficial owner of the driftway since the association's formation in 1942.

In 1944, the association became aware of the town's decision to purchase Greenwich Point from the hospital for the purpose of converting it into a beach park.9 At its meeting of October 1, 1944, the association passed a resolution providing, inter alia, that it was "not opposed to the purchase of [Tod's] Point by the [t]own... subject, however, to the following [condition] .... [that the town] [l]imit the use of the area to Greenwich residents." At a town meeting on November 9, 1944, the town approved a policy restricting the use of Tod's Point to "residents, taxpayers, lessees and their bona fide guests of the [t]own...." Minutes of the meetings of the town's board of selectmen and the board of estimate and taxation also reflect the adoption of this policy. The town purchased Greenwich Point on January 10, 1945, but did not codify the residency requirement until 1977, when it adopted the ordinance that is the subject of this appeal and that restricts access to Greenwich Point to town residents and their guests. See footnote 5 of this opinion. On August 15, 1994, after crossing the driftway without interference from the town or the association, the plaintiff, a resident of Stamford, attempted to enter Greenwich Point at its main gate. He was refused admission, however, because he did not have a beach pass as required by the ordinance.10 Thereafter, the plaintiff applied for a beach pass, but his application was denied in accordance with the provision of the ordinance authorizing the issuance of beach passes to town residents only.

The plaintiff then filed this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against the town, claiming, inter alia, that the ordinance violates: (1) the first amendment to the United States constitution and article first, §§ 4, 5 and 14,11 of the Connecticut constitution, both as applied to him and on its face; and (2) a state common-law doctrine under which municipal parks are held in trust by the municipality for the use of all members of the public.12 The association successfully moved to intervene, and the plaintiff amended his complaint to include a count against the association. In that count, the plaintiff claimed that any agreement that the association purported to have with the town to restrict the use of Greenwich Point to town residents and their guests was unenforceable as against public policy. The plaintiff also sought injunctive relief against the association.13

After a court trial, the court rejected each of the plaintiffs claims. The court first addressed the plaintiffs constitutional claim. With respect to the plaintiffs contention that the ordinance is unconstitutional as applied, the trial court concluded that the plaintiff's intended use of Greenwich Point, namely, to "`exchang[e] ideas and information with other park users,'" did not implicate his protected right to communicate. The trial court concluded that it was "not persuaded that the plaintiffs conduct touches upon [constitutionally protected] elements of communication. Simply stated, the plaintiff has failed to provide the court with evidence which would establish that he intended to enter [Greenwich] Point in order to express himself in any manner, regardless of whether the communication would be protected by the state and federal constitutions...." (Internal quotation marks omitted.)

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