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Judge discards bulk of Wilmot homeowner’s suit against town

A federal judge has blocked most of a Wilmot homeowner’s attempt to sue the town for $20.7 million over allegations it unlawfully tried to force her to reduce the height of the 14,000-square-foot home she has been building for nearly a decade.

The lawsuit, filed in April by Monica Banerjee, claimed that officials had arbitrarily enforced a vague and impractical 35-foot building height ordinance, that they had misled her to believe the height of the home was within legal limits, and that they had failed to adequately inspect the building before issuing a cease-and-desist order in 2010.

But in an order issued Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro wrote that those allegations, regardless of their veracity, would not warrant a violation of her due process rights.

“As bad as this conduct allegedly was,” Barbadoro wrote, “it does not come close to satisfying the standard that is required to support a substantive due process claim.”

He also discarded Banerjee’s claim that officials had breached a contract clause by issuing the order, reasoning that it’s a “non-starter” because a building permit is not legally a contract.

Barbadoro did not rule on Banerjee’s final claim, that the town had violated her procedural due process right, but indicated that he’s prepared to dismiss it unless she can present a more convincing argument for it by next Friday.

Before the suit, Banerjee had successfully appealed the cease-and-desist order, which indicated that the unfinished home on Granite Hill Road exceeded the 35-foot limit on at least one side. That order has since been vacated and Banerjee awarded attorney fees.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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