Town's motion to toss discrimination case is denied
Updated 4:23 pm, Friday, July 12, 2013
A racial discrimination lawsuit against the Town of Darien and former Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Frederick Conze will more forward after U.S. District Court Judge Warren W. Eginton rejected the town's motion to dismiss the entire case.
"Administrative history may be highly relevant to determining whether an improper purpose has played a role in a land use decision, especially, as here, where there is a record of statements by members of the decision making body," Eginton wrote in his decision.
The lawsuit was filed Nov. 28, 2011, by Chris Hamer, who alleges the town was trying to exclude minorities by denying him an affordable housing permit in 2008 when attempted to build 10 affordable residential condominium units in town. However, according to court documents, Hamer claimed the P&Z denied him permits and engaged with private residents to open a lawsuit against him that resulted in his property being foreclosed on.
"On December 14, 2010, at the annual State of the Town Meeting, defendant Conze publicly stated: `Our objective is to preserve the character of our town. The demographic and economic forces generated by our immediate neighbors to our east and west cannot be taken lightly. I have spoken of these forces in past Town Addresses....[M]any view Darien as a housing opportunity regardless of its effect on the character of our town and existing home values,'" the complaint reads.
Hamer filed an appeal with Connecticut Superior Court after the permits were denied, but lawsuits were brought against Hamer that resulted in "the defendants succeed(ing) in so increasing the plaintiffs' costs that the subject property was lost to foreclosure and the plaintiffs were unable to proceed with their affordable housing proposal. Thereupon, the aforesaid appeal was dismissed as moot," according to a court document.
The complaint alleges the town rejected the permit because it wanted to prevent people of African-American ancestry from living in Darien.
Hamer is suing the town under the 14th Amendment, the Fair Housing Act and the Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities Act. He is seeking punitive damages, compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs.