Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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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

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Plaintiffs sought permits from the City of Providence so they might restore electrical meters at the property they owned. The property was located in an area of the City that was zoned for no more than two-family dwelling units. The City conducted an inspection of the property, which revealed the property was being used as a three-family dwelling, and therefore, it was not in compliance with zoning ordinances. Plaintiffs filed an appeal of the City official's determination that their property was an illegal three-family dwelling. The zoning board affirmed. Plaintiffs appealed and sought a declaration that their use of the property was a legal nonconforming use. The trial justice denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice (1) did not abuse his discretion in declining to declare that Plaintiffs' property was a legal nonconforming use; (2) did not err in declining to apply the doctrine of equitable estoppel against the City; and (3) did not err in declining to allow Plaintiffs to rely upon the doctrine of laches as a basis for ruling that the City should not be permitted to enforce the provision of the zoning ordinance that prohibits using the property in a three-family manner. View "Cigarrilha v. City of Providence" on Justia Law

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This case involved a mediated settlement agreement between two of the heirs of Alfredo and the executrix of his estate, Maria. The superior court ordered Plaintiffs, Lucilio and Patricia, to execute general releases and pay attorney's fees incurred by Maria in seeking to enforce the settlement agreement. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the superior court erred in ordering them to execute general releases with terms that were materially different from those contemplated during settlement negotiations, and in assessing attorney's fees. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding (1) the trial justice erred in ordering Plaintiffs to execute the general release where the general release's language exceeded the clear and unambiguous terms of the settlement agreement; and (2) the superior court erred in awarding attorney's fees to Defendant pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-45, as the statute's threshold requirement that the party to receive the attorney's fees award be the "prevailing party" had not been met. View "Furtado v. Goncalves" on Justia Law

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Defendants, the city zoning board of review and the members of that board voted at a February 23, 2009 meeting to approve a request for an extension of time in which to substantially complete certain improvements to property. The request was referenced in one of the items contained in the agenda posted with respect to the board's meeting. Plaintiffs alleged that the agenda item violated the Rhode Island Open Meeting Act because it was a vague and indefinite notice to the public and one lacking in specificity. The superior court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that the agenda item provided sufficient notice and thus did not violate the Act. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the agenda item did not fairly inform the public of the nature of the business to be discussed or acted upon, and thus the agenda item did not comply with the standard established by the Act. Remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs with instructions that the action taken by the zoning board be declared null and void. View "Anolik v. Zoning Bd. of Review of City of Newport" on Justia Law

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The Lloyds owned property abutting property owned by the Bardorfs. Both properties were zoned R-10. The Bardorfs filed an application for a special-use permit proposing the removal of a deck and an existing two-story addition on the rear of their home and the construction of an addition and a deck. The Lloyds objected to the application. The city's zoning board of review (board) granted the special-use permit. The superior court affirmed the board's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the board and trial justice did not err in applying the standard governing a special-use permit to the Bardorfs' application, as the appropriate form of relief for a party seeking to expand a dimensionally noncomforming structure is a special-use permit; (2) neither the superior court nor the board erred in allowing the Bardorfs to utilize expanded lot coverage authorized by a 1992 dimensional variance; (3) because the zoning ordinance does not contemplate a calculation of building mass or three-dimensional spaces in the criteria for alterations of dimensionally noncomforming structures, the trial justice did not err in finding the addition would intensify the nonconformity associated with lot building coverage; and (4) legally competent evidence supported the trial justice's findings. View "Lloyd v. Zoning Bd. of Review for City of Newport" on Justia Law