Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiffs bought a tract of land in the City of Wilton (Defendant), for the construction of low-income multi-family housing. At the time of purchase, approximately three-fourths of the land was zoned as multi-family residential. Prior to Plaintiffs’ construction, the city rezoned the entire six acres as single-family residential.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The standard for determining if a property owner has vested rights in a zoning classification is dependent on the type of the project, the location, the ultimate cost, and primarily, the amount of monies expended while the use was in conformity.
Issue. Did the Plaintiffs have a vested right in developing their property as subsidized, multi-family housing, which the rezoning ordinance took without just compensation?
Held. No. The decision is affirmed.
The Plaintiffs, as a factor in their purchase of the property, did buy the tract because it was zoned to permit multi-family residences. The Plaintiffs made expenditures in preparation for obtaining governmental approval for the project. The expenditures totaled about $7,900.00, in addition to time and effort expended by Plaintiffs.
The standard for determining if a property owner has vested rights in a zoning classification is dependent on the type of the project, the location, the ultimate cost, and primarily, the amount of monies expended while the use was in conformity.
The Plaintiffs only took the most preliminary steps toward the project while the use was in conformity. The trial court found that the plans of the architect were the kind that could be found in a magazine and not the working plans of a contractor. No contracting bids were sought, no materials were placed on site, and no construction was started.
The court agrees with the trial court that Plaintiffs’ expenditures were not so substantial as to create vested rights in the completion of the housing project on that particular tract of land.
Discussion. Note the fluid boundary between expenditures, which are substantial enough under the test and those which fall short. The primary factor in this analysis is the amount of money expended while the land was in conformity.