Judge rules against owner of Norwich events venues in legal zoning fight
Norwich ― A New London Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the city in its long-running battle to prevent the owner of three allegedly illegal venues from hosting large events on the residential properties.
In a ruling filed Thursday, Judge Karen Goodrow found that Huey Min Lee, owner of large event venues at 270 Broadway, 138 Mediterranean Lane and 380 Washington St. “has willfully violated the regulations of the City of Norwich,” and approved the city’s proposed order that sought injunctions preventing Lee from holding the large events, along with attorneys’ fees.
The order asks the city to file an affidavit regarding costs and attorney fees within 14 days and said the court will schedule a remote hearing to consider the proposed fees.
The court held two recent remote hearings, first on the city’s request for injunctions on July 1, and the second hearing on Lee’s motion to dismiss the case on July 29. In both cases, Lee failed to attend the hearings and present her defense.
“The Court credits the testimony and evidence presented by the plaintiff at the hearing,” the ruling stated. “The Court finds the defendant has willfully violated the regulations of the City of Norwich.”
The city filed the civil suit against Lee’s ownership companies, Mount Crescent LLC for the 270 Broadway House and Renaissance Quest LLC for 138 Mediterranean Lane and 380 Washington St., claiming she was operating the properties as short-term rentals and large events venues. The suit alleged there were sometimes large tents in the yards, with loud music and 200 or more guests on the residential properties.
At one point during the July 1 hearing, city Building Official Dan Coley called a tent being erected at 138 Mediterranean Lane probably “the largest tent” he’d ever seen. He said he’d “almost classify it as a circus tent.”
City officials described efforts to work with Lee over the past several years to try to get her to comply with city zoning, fire safety and building code regulations to no avail.
Lee could not be reached for comment Friday evening on the ruling. Her most recent court motion asked Judge Goodrow to reconsider an order sustaining the city’s “stupid objection” to her motion seeking clarification on Goodrow’s denial of Lee’s motion to dismiss.
In her court filings, Lee argued the city violated her constitutional private property rights by issuing cease and desist orders and notices of violation. She routinely responded to city orders with emails containing insults aimed at “low-IQ” city officials, calling them “idiots,” and at one point “the Three Stooges.” She also questioning whether city Corporation Counsel Michael Driscoll had the authority to argue the case.
During the July 1 hearing, city officials repeatedly said Lee has defied notices of violation, cease and desist orders and abatement orders to correct fire safety hazards. Lee 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.
During the July 29 hearing, Driscoll said new tents were erected at 270 Broadway, and events continued to be held at the three venues.