TOWN OF BOZRAH et al. v. ANNE D. CHMURYNSKI et al., SC 18424/18354/18355/18356

Judicial District of New London

 

Zoning; Regulatory Inspections; Whether Trial Court Properly Granted Injunction Permitting Zoning Enforcement Officer to Conduct Regulatory Inspection of Property. Anne D. Chmurynski and Walter Chmurynski (the defendants) reside at 135 Scott Hill Road in Bozrah with Michael Chmurynski, Laura Alligood and Dale E. Bishop. The plaintiffs, the town of Bozrah and its zoning enforcement officer (ZEO), sought a temporary injunction to allow an inspection of the defendants' property for possible zoning violations. In their application, the plaintiffs alleged that the ZEO received a complaint that the defendants were storing unregistered or junked motor vehicles and other junk on the property. They further alleged that the defendants had refused to allow the ZEO, who is authorized under General Statutes 8-12 to "cause any building, structure, place or premises to be inspected," to conduct an inspection. The plaintiffs claimed that they had no adequate remedy at law to compel the search. In opposition, the defendants argued that neither 8-12 nor 3.1.1 of the Bozrah zoning regulations authorized the warrantless search that the plaintiffs sought, and, to the extent that those provisions did authorize such a search, they were unconstitutional under Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967). In Camara, the court held that the fourth amendment requires that if a property owner refuses to consent to a regulatory inspection, a search warrant must be obtained. The defendants also asserted that the plaintiffs could not establish the likelihood of success on the merits because the zoning regulations do not mention the term "unregistered motor vehicles" or define the word "junk." In addition, the defendants argued that the rendition of a proper judgment was impossible because the three other residents had not been joined as parties. Noting that two of those residents had personally refused entry to the ZEO, the defendants contended that their rights as cotenants to refuse to consent to an inspection would be violated if the application were granted. The trial court, applying Camara, found that because the defendants refused to allow the ZEO to inspect the premises, an inspection could be conducted only upon the issuance of some judicially granted authority to conduct a search. It determined that since there was no statutory authority for the issuance of search warrants to conduct regulatory inspections, an injunction was the only practical means by which an inspection could be authorized. Further, the court found that a reasonable governmental interest existed to justify the search of the property for zoning violations and that, under the circumstances, the defendants' right to be free from such intrusion was outweighed by this interest. The court also rejected the defendants' other claims. Accordingly, the court ordered a temporary injunction permitting the ZEO to conduct an inspection and enjoining the defendants and their agents from interfering with it. That decision is now being challenged by the defendants in an appeal (SC 18424) and by nonparties Michael Chmurynski, Alligood and Bishop through writs of error (SC 18354, 18355 and 18356).