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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Judge denies motion to dismiss Norwich case seeking to stop unpermitted events venues

    A wedding reception gets underway Oct. 17, 2020, at the Mount Crescent House bed and breakfast on Broadway in Norwich. The owner, Huey "Natalie" Min Lee, is engaged in a dispute with the city and neighbors over weddings and large events at the venue. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    For a second time, a New London Superior Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss the city of Norwich’s court case seeking to stop the owner of three residential properties from hosting unpermitted large events.

    Huey “Natalie” Min Lee did not show up for Friday’s online hearing on her motion to dismiss the city’s civil suit against her three allegedly illegal large events venues in the city. She also failed to show up for a July 1 online hearing on the city’s main request for a court injunction to stop her from hosting events at the three properties, at 270 Broadway, 138 Mediterranean Lane and 380 Washington St.

    On Friday, Judge Karen Goodrow opened the hearing, and quickly called for a recess to confirm that Lee had not filed any motion seeking to continue the hearing and did not call the court to explain why she would not be present.

    When the hearing resumed, city Corporation Counsel Michael Driscoll argued that the court already had denied Lee’s earlier motion to dismiss the city’s suit and said the reasons for the denial still apply to the new motion. Driscoll said the city’s initial argument objecting to the motion to dismiss also still applied, that the city has the authority through state statutes to enforce local zoning regulations. Lee had argued in her motion the city’s enforcement infringed on her private property rights.

    Judge Goodrow denied the motion to dismiss, citing Lee’s failure to appear for the hearing, and that the court already had ruled previously to deny her first motion to dismiss. Goodrow said case law Lee cited in her motion also did not apply to the case.

    Following the order, Driscoll told the judge that since the July 1 hearing, Lee has hosted three events, two that have been held at one of her facilities, and one with tents and folding chairs up on Friday for another event.

    But Goodrow said anything that allegedly occurred after the July 1 hearing would require additional evidence and an opportunity for Lee to respond.

    Driscoll said the city would consider amending its initial complaint, “but we may not need to at this point.”

    Goodrow said the July 1 hearing evidence is closed, and unless Lee or the city file motions to reopen the hearing, the court will rule on the city’s case based on the July 1 hearing evidence.

    City officials repeatedly said during the July 1 hearing that Lee has defied notices of violation, cease and desist orders and abatement orders to correct fire safety hazards at her Mount Crescent House at 270 Broadway.

    Lee also was arrested on a criminal charge of failure to abate a fire safety hazard but failed to show up for her court date in Norwich Superior Court. She filed a claim of false arrest in Norwich Superior Court.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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