NICHOLSON v. CONNECTICUT HALF-WAY HOUSE, INC.
153 Conn. 507 (1966)
MICHAEL NICHOLSON ET AL. v. THE CONNECTICUT HALF-WAY HOUSE, INC.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Decided March 16, 1966.
Joseph P. Cooney, with whom were John A. Berman and John E. Silliman, for the appellant (defendant).
Henry D. Marcus, for the appellees (plaintiffs).
KING, C. J., ALCORN, SHANNON, HOUSE and THIM, JS.
The plaintiffs are property owners and residents of Irving Street in Hartford. The defendant is the owner of a residential dwelling at 10-12 Irving Street. Shortly after taking title to this property, the defendant announced plans to maintain it as a residence for persons paroled from the Connecticut State Prison, under a program having as a primary objective the assistance of such persons in making a favorable and responsible adjustment to society. In this action the plaintiffs sought to enjoin the proposed use of the defendant's property on the ground of nuisance, alleging that the peaceful use and enjoyment of the surrounding properties were threatened. The court concluded that the anticipated use of the property constituted a nuisance in fact and granted a permanent injunction, from which the defendant has appealed.
The defendant's property is a three-family house located on the east side of Irving Street and three lots from Homestead Avenue. It was purchased with the intent of providing a temporary residence for selected parolees from the state prison. The residence is referred to as "Half-Way House." The defendant plans to house up to fifteen men at one time, excluding, under its present policy, sex offenders, drug addicts, and alcoholics. As a prerequisite to parole, these men will have either secured or been promised outside employment. The primary purpose of the defendant's undertaking is to provide these men with a home and an extensive counseling program under the guidance of a resident director trained in the field of rehabilitation. The proposed use does not violate any zoning restrictions, and the sole question is whether it constitutes an equitably abatable nuisance.
The issue of the reasonableness of the use of one's property, in relation to the rights of abutting and neighboring property owners, has been before us on other occasions. If the elements of a nuisance are clearly demonstrated, and if irreparable harm cannot otherwise be prevented, the court may enjoin the use objected to. See Brainard v. West Hartford, 140 Conn. 631, 636, 103 A.2d 135; 66 C.J.S., Nuisances, § 114. One basic element of nuisance, as that term is used to describe an abatable use of private property, is that the use of the land be unreasonable. "We concede that the law will not interfere with a use that is reasonable." Hurlbut v. McKone, 55 Conn. 31, 42, 10 A. 164. "It is the duty of every person to make a reasonable use of his own property so as to occasion no unnecessary damage or annoyance to his neighbor." Nailor v. C. W. Blakeslee & Sons, Inc., 117 Conn. 241, 245, 167 A. 548. A fair test of whether a proposed use constitutes a nuisance is "the reasonableness of the use of the property in the particular locality under the circumstances of the case." Wetstone v. Cantor, 144 Conn. 77, 80, 127 A.2d 70. To meet this test in the instant case, the evidence must show that the defendant's proposed use of the property under the circumstances is unreasonable.
Here the proposed use of the defendant's property, in and of itself, is lawful. The only factual grounds offered to support the relief granted are
It is clear that the power of equity to grant injunctive relief may be exercised only under demanding circumstances. Leo Foundation v. Cabelus, 151 Conn. 655, 657, 201 A.2d 654. "No court of equity should ever grant an injunction merely because of the fears or apprehensions of the party applying for it. Those fears or apprehensions may exist without any substantial reason. Indeed they may be absolutely groundless. Restraining the action of an individual or a corporation by injunction is an extraordinary power, always to be exercised with caution, never without the most satisfactory reasons." Goodwin v. New York, N.H. & H.R. Co., 43 Conn. 494, 500; Ginsberg v. Mascia, 149 Conn. 502, 505, 182 A.2d 4. The fears and apprehensions of the plaintiffs in the present case, based
The plaintiffs' claim of depreciated property values is likewise ineffective as a basis for supporting the issuance of an injunction. The mere depreciation of land values, caused in this case by the subjective apprehensions of neighboring property owners and their potential buyers, cannot sustain an injunction sought on the ground of nuisance. See Cawley v. Housing Authority, 146 Conn. 543, 546, 152 A.2d 923; 39 Am. Jur., Nuisance, §§ 28, 157.
The plaintiffs have cited Brainard v. West Hartford, 140 Conn. 631, 103 A.2d 135, for the proposition that an unreasonable use of property which is merely anticipatory may be enjoined. In that case, however, the proposed use, a town dump in a residential area, was a known quantity whose attributes as a nuisance could be readily adjudged prior to the undertaking.
Our conclusion is not intended to serve as a comment on the future operations of the defendant. We only hold that, under the present circumstances, there has been an insufficient factual showing that
There is error, the judgment is set aside and the case is remanded with direction to render judgment for the defendant.
In this opinion the other judges concurred.
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