United Oil Co. v. Urban Redevelopment Commission of City of Stamford

Decision Date16 July 1969
Citation158 Conn. 364,260 A.2d 596
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Isadore M. Mackler, Stamford, with whom was Leo Gold, Stamford, for appellants (plaintiffs).

Lawrence Gochberg, Stamford, for appellees (defendant Stamford New-Urban Corporation et al.).

Robert M. Wechsler, Stamford, with whom were J. Steven Rollings and, on the brief, Bernard Glazer, Stamford, for appellees (named defendant et al.).

Before KING, C.J., and ALCORN, HOUSE, THIM and RYAN, JJ.

HOUSE, Associate Justice.

This case is one of unusual complexity further complicated by the methods employed by the parties to secure an adjudication of the controversies among them-an action for a declaratory judgment decided on motions for summary judgment. Unfortunately, it serves as another illustration of the truism that a shortcut is not necessarily a more speedy and safe route than the established and traditional path. It also once again demonstrates that at action for a declaratory judgment, valuable as it has become in modern practice, is not a procedural panacea for use on all occasions. Gannon v. Sanders, 157 Conn. 1, 6, 244 A.2d 397; Liebeskind v. City of Waterbury, 142 Conn. 155, 158, 112 A.2d 208.

The case arises out of problems in connection with urban redevelopment in Stamford. One plaintiff, Morton B. Kahn, has sued as a resident and taxpayer of Stamford. The other, United Oil Company, Inc., has sued both as a Stamford taxpayer and as the owner of real estate within the redevelopment area which is being taken by eminent domain for redevelopment purposes. The defendants include the Stamford urban redevelopment commission, the Stamford redevelopment agency, created pursuant to General Statutes § 8-126; the city of Stamford; its controller; its finance commissioner; its town and city clerk; the clerk of the Superior Court in and for the county of Fairfield at Stamford; the F. D. Rich Company, Inc., and Seon P. Bonan, the successful applicants as developers; and the Stamford New-Urban Corporation, their assignee.

The complaint is in eight counts improperly replete with repetition and allegations of conclusions of fact and law. See Practice Book §§ 85, 88. In substance, the complaint is a broad attack on the conduct and actions of the defendants in planning and implementing a proposal for the redevelopment of a large area in the center of Stamford. Broadly summarized, the plaintiffs, in their eight counts, claim that the conduct and actions of the defendants culminating in and including the final redevelopment plan and the land disposition contract have not been in compliance with various provisions and regulations of the Stamford ordinances and charter, the applicable provisions of the Connecticut General Statutes, the federal statutes and the regulations of the United States department of housing and urban development; that the defendants have manifested actions and a course of conduct which are illegal, arbitrary, unreasonable, in bad faith and in abuse of their discretion and powers; that the actions of the defendants will result in an illegal monopoly in favor of the defendant developers; that the inclusion and proposed taking of the property of the named plaintiff, in particular, is not necessary to an adequate unit of development, is arbitrary, unreasonable, in bad faith and in abuse of powers, constitutes a taking for a private rather than a public use, and is a deprivation of property without due process or equal protection of the laws; and that because of all these illegal actions the effectuation of the final redevelopment plan and the land disposition contract will result in an illegal and wasteful expenditure of taxpayers' funds.

By way of relief the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment answering twenty-two questions. 1 As ancillary relief, the plaintiffs also sought a permanent injunction against the defendants and 'on behalf of the City of Stamford and its taxpayers' damages in the amount of $2,000,000 against the defendant developers.

The private and public defendants filed separate answers and special defenses. The separate answers are substantially the same and deny numerous factual allegations as well as the plaintiffs' pleaded conclusions of impropriety and illegality in the adoption and implementation of the redevelopment plan. The special defenses (nine in number) are similar and basically purport to allege facts to show that the plaintiffs are barred from bringing their action because of inexcusable delay, primarily a claim of laches; that the plaintiffs are estopped from prosecuting their present claims; that the plaintiffs failed to join as a necessary and indispensable party the United States of America, which was supplying funds for the redevelopment project; and that the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the actions of the defendants. The defendant developers also alleged as a special defense that the plaintiffs as taxpayers are not entitled to damages based on allegations of any inadequacy of the price of the parcels sold to them. The public defendants also pleaded by way of special defense facts purporting to show that the plaintiffs came into court with 'unclean hands' and were therefore barred from any relief in equity. In addition, the private defendants also filed a counterclaim for damages, alleging that the filing by the plaintiffs of a lis pendens on the urban development land and the filing of the writ, summons and complaint in the present case were done maliciously to interfere with the redevelopment disposition of the land and for the purpose of causing great financial harm to the private defendants.

The plaintiffs thereafter filed motions to expunge the counterclaim, to expunge the special defense alleging 'unclean hands,' and to amend the complaint and cite in the parking authority of the city of Stamford as an additional defendant. The latter motion expressly alleged that the parking authority is a municipal agency organized pursuant to No. 374 of the 1953 Special Acts (26 Spec. Laws 983), that it has an interest in the subject matter of the plaintiffs' action and that its presence as a party is necessary for a complete determination of 'the issue' in the case. In their proposed amendment to the complaint, the plaintiffs asserted that the parking authority was a party to a contract with the redevelopers for the use of a portion of the redeveloped area for automobile parking. In addition, the plaintiffs filed with the court an application for an order that notice of their pending action be given to the United States department of housing and urban development and to the Connecticut commissioner of community affairs by mailing to each of them a copy of the application and order and a copy of the complaint. The application expressly alleged that '(t)he United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Commissioner of Community Affairs of the State of Connecticut may have an interest in the subject matter of this action and are entitled to notice thereof.' Each of the motions and the application for an order of notice were denied by the court.

Thereafter, the private and public defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment on the grounds that 'as to the issues raised in the several counts of the Complaint there is no genuine issue as to any material fact'; that the plaintiffs are barred by laches; that they are estopped from maintaining the actions as to all counts; that they have waived any right to bring an action and have no standing to sue as to the matters alleged in all the counts except the fourth count, which specifically concerned land within the development area owned by United Oil Company, Inc.; and that the plaintiffs failed to join as necessary and indispensable parties the United States of America and the state of Connecticut. The private defendants also moved for summary judgment in favor of F. D. Rich Company, Inc., and Seon Pierre Bonan because they were not parties to the final disposition contract and, as to the portion of the complaint seeking damages, on the ground that any damages would not accrue to the city of Stamford and its taxpayers and that the plaintiffs had no standing in their role as taxpayers to receive such damages. The public defendants, in addition, asserted that the plaintiffs are not entitled to the relief sought because they did not come into court with clean hands.

In support of the two motions for summary judgment, the defendants submitted and relied on a voluminous file of exhibits and on affidavits of numerous deponents, including the president of the defendant the Stamford New-Urban Corporation, the chairman of the urban redevelopment commission during the period of the formulation of the redevelopment plan, a member of the consulting engineering firm which administered all work on the renewal project, the appraiser and real estate consultant of the urban redevelopment commission, and the director of urban renewal of the urban redevelopment commission. The plaintiffs, in opposition to the motions, submitted many exhibits as well as affidavits of the plaintiff Kahn, of an architect, of a real estate appraiser, of a member of the Stamford board of Finance during the period of the formulation of the redevelopment plan, and of two members of a law firm which had represented the plaintiff the United Oil Company, Inc., in dealings with the urban renewal commission.

Thereafter the court rendered summary judgment for the defendants, stating simply: 'The court, having heard the parties, finds the issues for the defendants.' Since, because of the nature of the proceedings, there is no finding containing a statement of the facts found by the court, or a statement of the claims of law made by the parties or of the conclusions drawn by the court from the facts found, the court's memorandum of decision is...

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