ENVIRONMENTAL INTERVENTION AND LAND USE PROCEEDINGS
© 2006 By Ira W. Bloom
A vehicle which allows individuals or organizations to “intervene” in zoning and other land use proceedings exists by virtue of Connecticut General Statute ’22a-19. Commonly referred to as the “Environmental Intervention” statute, this law allows any person, partnership, corporation, association, organization, or other legal entity to intervene as a party in such proceedings. A “verified pleading” must be filed asserting that the application involves conduct which has, or which is reasonably likely to have, the effect of unreasonably polluting, impairing or destroying the public trust in the air, water or other natural resources of this State.
This is a powerful tool to be utilized in a proper manner. The designation of “party” status gives the intervenor a “seat at the table,” which effectively allows participation in, for example, any discussion of settlement and in any review by the Superior Court upon appeal. It is not required that the intervening party live adjacent to the applicant’s property or, for that matter, anywhere near the applicant’s property. The statute allows environmental intervention from virtually any area.
The environmental statute provides that the land use body (planning and zoning commission, zoning board of appeals, conservation commission, as examples) shall not allow any conduct which does, or is reasonably likely to, have the above environmental impact, so long as, considering all relevant surrounding circumstances and factors, there is a feasible and prudent alternative.
As an intervening party, you do have an obligation to present some support for your allegations. Unfortunately, this statute has been abused from time to time by parties who simply make the allegations and do nothing more. The initial burden is on the intervening party to produce some evidence, but then the land use commission must make particular findings based upon the allegations.
The Environmental Intervention statute, if properly used and supported by evidence, can be an important vehicle and tool.