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Horse Farm Owners File Lawsuit Against Easton

EASTON, Conn. – Two residents, who claim the town forced them to unfairly spend a large sum of money ensuring their horse farm and riding facility, are suing the town of Easton and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission in federal court.

Ryan and Deluca, a legal team based in Stamford, is representing Easton in the lawsuit. Attorney Michael T. Ryan, a member of the firm, declined to comment.

According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut last month by Leeland and Kristen Gray, the couple purchased 4.76 acres of property on Eden Hill Road. In 2006, they approached the town’s zoning commission to offer “horse riding lessons and horse boarding services” on the property.

During a 2006 meeting with the zoning board, the couple was told that to get approval for such a business, they needed a special permit. They were also told that under town zoning regulations, the business must sit on 10 acres of property or more and that no more than a third of the property can be classified as wetlands.

A year later, the Grays purchased adjacent property, located at 94 Eden Hill Road in Newtown, for $1.25 million. That property, the suit states, is 14 acres. In March 2008, the Grays were awarded a special permit for the horse facility, the suit states, but it cost the family $25,000 “to comply with special permit approval procedures, requirements and conditions” imposed by the zoning commission.

The family claims that during the entire process, they were singled out and treated unfairly. According to the suit, Easton and the commission “deliberately and intentionally did not require similarly situated illegal commercial horse business operators” to own a minimum of 10 acres of land or to pay “costly” special permit approval procedures, according to the suit.

Although the family notified the commission of several businesses that were in violation of zoning regulations, the suit says, “The defendants deliberately and intentionally failed to investigate” those complaints. The lawsuit also lists several properties and horse farms they claim are still in operation, even though they are allegedly violating zoning regulations.

“The defendants intentionally treated the plaintiffs differently than other similarly situated persons and entities within the town of Easton with no rational basis for the difference in treatment,” the suit states.

Although there is no mention in the suit for exact financial damages, the Grays are seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and legal fees and “such other and further relief as the court deems fair, just and equitable.”

The attorney representing the family, Lucas Bagnell Varga, could not be reached for comment.

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