After a lengthy legal battle all the way to the state Appellate Court, long-time Westport residents Ronald and Carol Malone have finally gotten the official sanction to do what they've been doing for more than 50 years on their Cedar Road property.
The Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday reversed its 2009 decision upholding a cease-and-desist order preventing the Malones from parking two trucks for their family-owned sanitation business and keeping two trash bins in the driveway of their 6 Cedar Road home.
"It's unfortunate that we had to take it all the way up to the state (Appellate Court) to get the proper outcome," said Malone, a Westport native and former police chief.
"It's been difficult for both of us, my wife and I," he added.
Almost four years ago, following complaints from a neighbor, Westport's zoning enforcement officer issued a cease-and-desist order to the Malones, who are of a family-owned sanitation business that bears their name. The Malones appealed the decision to the ZBA on several counts, including their right to operate a business from that location, as well as keep vehicles and storage containers, primarily on a part of the property that previously had been in a business district. But the ZBA chose to uphold the order, and the Malones were forced to take the matter to the courts.
The high court overturned the trial court decision in the case earlier this year, and sent the issue back to the ZBA.
In reversing its decision, however, the board imposed conditions, including that no on-site work or repairs be done on the trucks, no garbage or recyclables be stored on the property, and that the refuse business itself not be operated at the property.
Assistant Town Attorney Mario Coppola said evidence and testimony clearly demonstrated that the Malones have kept the trucks there since 1958. "He has a vested right to continue," he said, emphasizing that that right is grandfathered in from 1958, but would not be approved under existing zoning regulations for a new property owner.
He said the ZBA's error was in not considering all aspects of the original appeal, much of which it rightly denied with regard to running a business on the residential property. "Upon further review, the Appellate Court said, `Hang on,' " he said, with regard to storage of the vehicles and containers.
"Their error was just that they never considered that and they just denied the appeal," he said.
Malone acknowledged the challenges of the board's process and, through his lawyer Robert Grant, thanked board members for their work.
"We know the difficulty of handling public matters," he said, "but the problem here, of course, was that we knew from the start that they were wrong."
Asked if he is satisfied with the final outcome, Malone said, "I'm Irish. Are the Irish ever happy?"