Lime Rock Park, LLC v. Planning and Zoning Commission of Town of Salisbury

Decision Date17 July 2018
Docket NumberCV-15-6013033-S
CourtConnecticut Superior Court



Hon John D. Moore J.


On December 18, 2015, Lime Rock Park, LLC (Park) filed this action to appeal the November 16, 2015 decision of the defendant, Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Salisbury (Comm'n), to amend certain of its zoning regulations. The zoning regulations amended in 2015 pertain to the operation of an automobile race track at a site owned by the Park (Site). On May 16, 2016, the court, Moore J., granted the motion of the Lime Rock Citizens Council, LLC (Council) to intervene. The court conducted a hearing on May 10, 2017, with an additional argument taking place on August 30, 2017. At that August argument, the parties agreed to allow the court to file its decision in this matter on or before October 16, 2017. On September 11, 2017, two parties submitted supplemental briefing based on issues that arose during the August argument. Thereafter, on September 25, 2017, the court indicated, by way of order, that additional argument was necessary and, on September 26, 2017, ordered the parties to supplement the record. The parties filed the requested supplementation on October 6, 2017, and the additional hearing was held on October 10, 2017. During that hearing, the court allowed both parties to further supplement the record by admitting documents into evidence, including a more complete version of the Comm'n's 1959 zoning regulations. On January 31, 2018, the court issued its memorandum of decision (#165), denying the appeal in part and sustaining it in part. Judgment entered on January 31, 2018.

On February 20, 2018, the Comm'n (#167), the Council (#169) and the Park (#170) each filed motions to reargue and/or reconsider the decision, along with supporting memoranda of law. On February 27, 2018, the court ordered reargument on the issues raised in each of these three motions (#171). Thereafter, the parties filed a panoply of related objections and memoranda, including the following: the Park's objection to the Comm'n's motion to reargue (#172); the Park's objection to the Council's motion to reargue (#173); the Comm'n's memorandum in opposition to the Park's motion to reargue (#174); the Council's objection to the Park's motion to reargue and joinder to #174 (#175); the Park's reply memorandum to the Comm'n's objection to the Park's motion to reargue (#178) and the Comm'n's reply to the Park's objection to the Comm'n's motion to reargue (#179). The Comm'n also filed a motion for permission to supplement the administrative record (#180), with exhibits set forth in #177. On March 19, 2018, the court heard argument on all of the motions to reargue and responses thereto, as well as on the Comm'n's motion to supplement the record. The court denied the Comm'n's motion to supplement the record on the record on March 19, 2018, and, on March 20, 2018, entered a further order (#180.10), providing additional reasons for this denial.

On April 10, 2018, and April 24, 2018, the court sought additional information from the Comm'n as to when a critical amendment to the zoning regulations occurred (##181 and 183). The Comm'n provided compliance to the court's requests on April 18, 2018 and May 3, 2018, respectively.

The January 31, 2018 judgment is hereby opened and this amended memorandum of decision supersedes the January 31, 2018 memorandum of decision. This amended memorandum of decision reflects the court's response to the issues raised in the motions to reargue. Where the court believed it helpful, it discussed the arguments raised in the motions to reargue in this amended memorandum of decision. For the reasons set forth below, the court sustains the appeal in part and denies it in part.


Because regulation of the Site has arisen, as the Comm'n's chair stated, "as an accident of history or evolution," this court finds it both useful and necessary to review the regulatory history related to use of the Site as a motor vehicle race track. The court gleaned the following history from the administrative record and through judicial notice of pleadings in the following related cases: (1) Adams v. Vaill, Superior Court, judicial district of Litchfield, Docket No. CV-58-0015459-S, and the related appellate decision at 158 Conn. 478, 262 A.2d 169 (1969), including the appellate court file;[1] (2) Lime Rock Foundation, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals, Superior Court, judicial district of Litchfield, Docket No. CV-77-0016404-S; (3) Lime Rock Protection Committee v. Lime Rock Foundation, Inc., Superior Court, judicial district of Litchfield, Docket No. CV-77-0016416-S; and (4) Lime Rock Protection Committee v. Lime Rock Foundation, Inc., Superior Court, judicial district of Litchfield, Docket No. CV-78-0016920-S.

Before reviewing the regulatory history of the Site, however, it is vitally important to understand that, for six decades, regulation of the Site has been, at times, reactive in nature, rather than planned or thoughtful. Additionally, regulation of the Site has been too often imprecise, and not careful. Regulation of the Site has taken three avenues: (1) a permanent injunction arising out of a nuisance lawsuit brought by neighbors of the Site against the owner, including modifications thereof; (2) a stipulated judgment, arising, in large part, from preexisting, nonconforming uses at the Site, which resolved three appeals of decisions made by the Salisbury Zoning Board of Appeals; and (3) the enactment and amendment of zoning regulations. At times, there has been inconsistency between these three avenues of regulation. Indeed, the mere existence of these three avenues of regulation has sown confusion regarding which authority regulated racing at the Site. The zoning amendments at issue comprise, to some degree, a consolidation of these three paths, and constitute an attempt by the Comm'n to organize the regulation of the Site into a more coherent and accessible fashion. The Comm'n intended to codify what it perceived to be the existing zoning "status quo" by placing into its regulations what it deemed to be the reasonable expectations of its constituents regarding the use of the Site as a race track.

A. Background Facts

Motor vehicle racing and other related activities, including camping, automobile shows, and demonstrations of driving speed and skill have been conducted at the Site since 1957. In 1957, racing and related activities occurred seven days a week. At the inception of such activities, the Town of Salisbury had no zoning regulations.[2] The operation of the race track, therefore, prior to the enactment of zoning regulations, was a preexisting, nonconforming use.

B. Adams v. Vaill: The Injunction Action

In 1958, in response to the presence of the race track, and related undesired activities, a group of local citizens and institutions brought a private nuisance action, Adams v. Vaill, supra, Superior Court, Docket No. CV-58-0015459-S. The defendants were B. Franklin Vaill, the owner of the Site, and The Lime Rock Corporation (LRC), the lessee of the Site and operator of the race track. The action was brought by twenty-five individuals, mostly residents and property owners in the village of Lime Rock, and two institutions, the Trinity Episcopal Church of Lime Rock (Church)[3] and the Lime Rock Cemetery Improvement Association (Cemetery). The plaintiffs claimed that the use of the race track constituted a nuisance, and they sought to abate this nuisance by means of permanent injunctive relief. Given that the injunction is the original source of regulation at the Site, it is necessary to undertake a careful review of the allegations in Adams.

The Adams plaintiffs alleged the following facts. For more than twenty-five years prior to 1957, the village of Lime Rock was a "quiet, peaceful and secluded residential area" of Salisbury with little commercial activity. Starting in early 1957, LRC used the Site as a sports car race track, hosting races and exhibitions almost every weekend when weather and driving conditions permitted. Even when no formal events took place, drivers used the track to test their cars and practice racing. This activity began as early as 9:00 a.m. and went as late as 11:00 p.m., and sometimes lasted for up to ten consecutive hours. "[Considerable noise," arising from the racing activity, included the roar of car engines when accelerating at high and low speeds, generally "without mufflers or other devices to silence" the engine exhaust; the revving of "unmuffled engines of cars at a stand still;" the "loud screeching of tires and squealing of brakes;" the "noisy changing of gears;" and announcements emanating from loudspeakers and amplifiers. The noise could travel as far as two and one-half to three miles. While attending events at the track, racing fans drove their own cars recklessly and without consideration of the rights of others, "often with loud noises occasioned by operation with cut-outs or without mufflers." The attendees also sped and raced on public roads, and engaged in horn honking and other boisterous conduct. The racing fans created such heavy traffic that the plaintiffs were denied normal access to and from their homes. The fans violated the plaintiffs' property rights by trespassing on their land turning vehicles on their lawns,...

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