May 24, 2022

Chester Backyard Burial Case Heads to Connecticut Supreme Court

CHESTER— A dispute over zoning requirements for a backyard human burial that began in 2005 was argued this week before the Connecticut Supreme Court by attorneys for the town and local resident Elise Piquet.

The dispute began after the town zoning enforcement officer learned that Piquet had buried her late husband, John Shaboe Doll, on her eight-acre South Wig Hill Road property after his death in the fall of 2004. The burial had been done under the supervision of a licensed funeral director, but the state Department of Public Health had requested confirmation from the town that a backyard burial was allowed under Chester zoning regulations. The regulations did not address private burials, and the planning and zoning commission determined that means such burials are not allowed.

Piquet had appealed for a variance from the zoning board of appeals to allow the burial, but the case was never presented for a public hearing after the town withdrew a cease and desist order against the burial to give Piquet and the Department of Public Health an opportunity to resolve the issue. Piquet filed suit against the town in 2007 after the commission continued to maintain she had violated local zoning regulations and needed a permit for the burial. A Middlesex Superior Court judge later ruled in favor of the town, and the requirement for zoning approval, but Piquet then brought the case to the Connecticut Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court reversed the judge’s decision on mostly technical grounds, sending the ultimate issue of whether town zoning approval is required for a backyard burial to the state Supreme Court. Piquet was represented in Tuesday’s arguments at the court chamber in Hartford by New Haven lawyer William Gallagher. The town was represented by town attorney John Bennet, a Chester resident. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by this summer.