Conn. Fisher Sues Town for Violating Equal Protection Clause

On Monday, Timothy Londregan, Marker Seven Marina, LLC and Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC filed a complaint in the District of Connecticut against the Town of East Lyme, Mark Nickerson and William Mulholland alleging the town deprived Londregan and his companies of their rights and violated the Equal Protection Clause. 

The complaint states the Town of East Lyme is a Connecticut municipality that contains the village of Niantic in its southeastern corner. Additionally, the complaint states Nickerson is the town’s First Selectman and Mulholland is the town’s Zoning Enforcement Officer. 

According to the complaint, Londregan is a resident of New London, Connecticut and the sole member of Marker Severn Marina, LLC and Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC. The complaint states, through his limited liability companies, Londregan has operated an aquaculture business in the waters off of Niantic that has farmed and harvested shellfish such as oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops since 2013. The complaint states that Londregan and his companies have operated its shellfishing businesses with all of the required permits and approvals. 

In the complaint, Londregan accuses the defendants and members of the community of attacking his shellfishing operation because his properties are “working class” operations compared to the surrounding “luxury-recreational” businesses.

Londregan states these attacks began when he applied for a new lease on his shellfishing operation for Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC. He alleges that when he applied for a new lease, a local coalition engaged in a media blitz, and the town held private meetings with local marina owners including Boats, Inc. The complaint states that Boats, Inc. has a large interest in the Niantic area and operates marinas with a focus on higher-end luxury recreational boaters. The complaint states that, after considerable delay, the town denied Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm’s application for a new lease requiring Landregan to move his operation. 

Londregan states that he moved his operation and opened Marker Seven Marina, LLC to a new location that neighbored a marina owned by Boats, Inc. The complaint states that 14 months after opening Marker Seven Marina with no complaints, Londregan received an email from Mark Nickerson on May 7, 2019, threatening a cease-and-desist over zoning violations and a noise complaint. The complaint purports that when Londregan responded stating his noise level and operations did not violate the town ordinances, Nickerson stated “the noise is too loud, and the people with the one-half million dollar boats that come down on weekends do not want it” and suggested that he move to a different location within the same zoning district away from Boats, Inc.’s marina. After Landregan refused to move his operation, the town issued a cease-and-desist on October 7, 2019, against Marker Seven Marina and Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm which is currently on appeal. 

Additionally, the complaint states that on May 10, 2021, the town issued an injunction against Londregan and Marker Seven Marina to prevent it from conducting dredging and repair work to rebuild a seawall on its property. The complaint states that the town informed the plaintiffs that they must acquire a Certificate of Permission for the work despite not requiring at least five other properties listed in the complaint from acquiring a Certificate of Permission. 

The plaintiffs argue that the defendants’ actions were motivated by ill will, personal animus and  malice towards Londregan, and they intentionally treated the plaintiffs differently than other  similarly-situated residents and businesses. The plaintiffs seek compensatory, special and general damages, injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and costs for the defendants alleged violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiffs are represented by McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP