Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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At issue was whether Plaintiff was entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(6) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure from an order directing him to remove a garage from his property. In 2014, the superior court ordered Plaintiff to remove a garage he built on his property that violated the setback requirements set forth in the Town of Tiverton’s zoning ordinance. Thereafter, the Town removed the garage from Plaintiff’s property and placed a lien on the property for $69,300 in fines imposed by a 2015 contempt order. In 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the 2014 order. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the superior court possessed subject matter jurisdiction to order Plaintiff to remove his garage, and because the granting of the 2014 order did not violate due process, the order was not void; but (2) the unique circumstances of this case and its procedural flaws presented a manifest injustice justifying relief from the operation of the order under Rule 60(b)(6). View "McLaughlin v. Zoning Board of Review of the Town of Tiverton" on Justia Law

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Subsection 4(a) of Rhode Island’s Right to Farm Act, Rhode Island General Laws chapter 23 of title 2, does not permit Landowner to host commercial events, such as weddings for a fee, on his farmland in the Town of Exeter, Rhode Island. Landowner attempted to obtain a zoning certificate from the Town that would allow him to host a commercial fundraising event on his farmland. When the Town denied the request, Landowner filed suit, seeking a number of declarations. At issue was whether a 2014 amendment to R.I. Gen. Laws 2-23-4(a) rendered a previous permanent injunction enjoining Landowner from using his property for commercial events a nullity. The trial justice denied Landowner’s request for declaratory relief, concluding that the 2014 amendment did not supersede the 2011 injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the unambiguous language of section 2-23-4(a), Landowner remained bound by the injunction. View "Gerald P. Zarrella Trust v. Town of Exeter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, following a bench trial, convicting Defendants, James and Melissa Pelletier, of violating Tiverton Zoning Ordinance article IV, section 13(a) for manufacturing compost in an R-80 zone. The court held (1) the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence and was not clearly wrong in finding that Defendants violated the zoning ordinance beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) processing compost on the property at issue is not a permitted accessory use; and (3) the ordinance at issue is not void for vagueness. View "State ex rel Town of Tiverton v. Pelletier" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Brown University and the City of Providence. In count one of their complaint Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the university’s construction of an artificial turf field hockey field with attendant bleachers, electronic scoreboard, press box, and public-address system was an unlawful use under the Providence zoning ordinance. The superior court granted summary judgment to Defendants as to count one. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the hearing justice erred in finding that Plaintiffs had no standing with respect to count one because, as abutting property owners, Plaintiffs clearly established an articulable injury in fact. View "Key v. Brown University" on Justia Law

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The Zoning Officer for the Town of Hopkinton issued a notice of violation to Todd and Tina Sposato for being in violation of the Hopkinton Zoning Ordinance by having four alpacas on their property, which was located in an R-1 zone. The Zoning Board overturned the Zoning Officer’s ruling, concluding that alpacas are “domestic animals,” and therefore, keeping them on the property was a permitted use. Thereafter, the Zoning Board of Review of the Town of Hopkinton imposed four “conditions” on the Sposatos with respect to the continued presence of alpacas on the property. The fourth condition explicitly provided that “[t]he right to keep alpaca on this property does not run with the land; that is, if the [Sposatos] sell this property the next owners are not permitted to keep alpaca.” The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court, holding that the last of the four conditions imposed upon the Sposatos by the Zoning Board was inconsistent with venerable and settled principles in the law of land use. View "Preston v. Zoning Board of Review of Town of Hopkinton" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the Preservation Society of Newport County’s (the Society) application for the construction of a Welcome Center near the entrance of a well-known Newport mansion. Bellevue-Ochre Point Neighborhood Association (BOPNA) initiated a declaratory judgment action seeking various declarations that the Welcome Center was prohibited under the City of Newport Zoning Ordinance. The Society filed a motion to dismiss. The hearing justice granted the motion, concluding that the issues presented in the complaint were within the jurisdiction of Newport zoning officials to determine and were inappropriate for a declaratory judgment action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice correctly determined that the issues raised in BOPNA’s complaint were within the zoning board’s authority and jurisdiction and were therefore inappropriate for resolution in an action seeking declaratory judgment. View "Bellevue-Ochre Point Neighborhood Ass’n v. Preservation Society of Newport County" on Justia Law

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An East Providence zoning officer issued a notice of violation, finding violations of a use variance that was granted in 1998 to the owner and operator of a construction and demolition debris processing facility known as Pond View Recycling. The East Providence Zoning Board of Review upheld the notice of violation. The owner and operator of Pond View appealed. The superior court reversed, concluding that the zoning board’s decision was “clearly erroneous and made upon unlawful procedure.” The City of East Providence and the zoning board sought review. The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court and remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment for the City, holding that the zoning board’s findings of fact were not clearly erroneous, and therefore, the trial justice erred by reversing the decision of the zoning board. View "Kenlin Props., LLC v. City of East Providence" on Justia Law

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Five corporate plaintiffs sued the East Greenwich Fire District and the Town of East Greenwich alleging that Defendants’ imposition and collection of development impact fees from developers who applied for a building permit to develop land within the Town violated Rhode Island’s Development Impact fee Act (RIDIFA). The fire district adopted the schedule of impact fees by a resolution rather than through an ordinance. The superior court entered judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that Defendants did not have the authority to impose development impact fees and, if they did, the process by which they imposed the fees was deficient. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the resolution adopted by the fire district was invalid because it did not comply with either RIDIFA’s mandate that the fees be imposed through an ordinance or the Town’s notice and public-hearing requirements for the enactment of ordinances. View "5750 Post Road Med. Offices, LLC v. East Greenwich Fire Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a dimensional variance by the Zoning Board of Review of the Town of Jamestown. After the Board denied the variance, Plaintiffs appealed. The superior court reversed the Board’s decision and granted Plaintiffs’ variance application. Thereafter, Plaintiffs moved for an award of reasonable litigation expenses under the Equal Access to Justice for Small Businesses and Individuals Act. The trial justice denied Plaintiffs’ motion, concluding that the Board was not an “agency” within the purview of the Act and that the hearing before the Board was not an “adjudicatory proceeding” as the term is defined in the Act. The Supreme Court quashed the judgment below, holding that the Board is an agency and that the hearing on Plaintiffs’ variance application was an adjudicatory proceeding on the Act. Remanded for written findings and conclusions with respect to the remaining prerequisites for relief. View "Tarbox v. Zoning Bd. of Review" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff operated a Wendy’s restaurant in East Greenwich. One defendant had received permission to build a new McDonald’s restaurant with a drive-through window on property located down the street. Plaintiff sought a mandatory injunction and a writ of mandamus to prevent the construction of the drive-through facility until McDonald’s first submitted a special-use permit application for the drive-through window to the Town of East Greenwich’s Zoning Board of Review. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on all counts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice correctly concluded that Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the amended East Greenwich Zoning Ordinance permitted drive-through uses as a matter of right. View "CCF, LLC v. Pimental" on Justia Law