Real Estate & Property Law

Owner of Hepburn Estate Loses Claim that Historic Commission Caused Him Emotional Distress

Corrected: A developer who owns the Connecticut estate of Katharine Hepburn won’t be able to pursue a counterclaim against a historic commission that alleged the agency’s decision on two granite posts exceeded its powers and caused emotional distress.

Frank Sciame built the posts at the end of his driveway 5 feet in height, and then created foot-high flower beds around them when he was ordered to lower the height by one foot. The New York Times and the Associated Press have stories.

The Historic District Commission of the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook wasn’t satisfied with Sciame’s solution and brought an enforcement action. A Connecticut judge ruled against Sciame last year. “Apparently in certain neighborhoods, as in life, size does matter,” the judge said. “This is a dispute about 12 inches and how it is measured.”

The appeals court ruling (PDF), available online, is dated Jan. 15. The court said Sciame had failed to appeal the commission’s initial order and can’t defend an enforcement action by claiming invalidity. He also may not base an emotional distress claim on allegations that the commission attempted to enforce its regulation. “The counterclaim does not allege specific facts that constitute the extreme and outrageous conduct required,” the court said.

Sciame has complied with the commission’s order by sawing off the top of the posts, the Times says. The home is also for sale with a $30 million price tag, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reported last month.

Updated at 8:31 p.m. to correctly state that the estate belonged to Katharine Hepburn.

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