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Confronting Obstacles to New Construction in Rhode Island

Property owners who desire to construct residential or commercial projects in the state must obtain permits for construction that satisfy the zoning and planning requirements of the municipality where the proposed construction will occur. Municipal zoning boards set regulations for the types of permitted construction that can occur on any piece of property. These regulations allow property owners to easily determine if a proposed use will be acceptable to the zoning board. Noncompliant construction projects may still be approved with the issuance of a “variance” by the zoning board, which will permit the proposed construction if a majority of the zoning board members agree that certain conditions have been met to issue the variance. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently issued a decision that affirmed a variance issued by the zoning board despite objections from neighboring property owners.

The appellees in the recently decided case are property owners who sought to build their retirement home on their property in Gloucester, Rhode Island. The property had abnormal dimensions and abutted protected wetlands. The zoning regulations in place for the town would have prevented the appellees from constructing the home they desired, so they applied for a dimensional variance. The appellees’ proposal would place their home 17 feet closer to their neighbor’s house than generally permitted under the regulations. The neighbors objected to the appellees’ proposal, and the zoning board held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether to approve the variance. The zoning board determined that the appellees’ proposal met all of the standards for approval, and was the least relief necessary to achieve the appellees’ goals. As a result of these findings, the board approved the appellees’ plan.

The neighbors appealed the zoning board decision to the Superior Court, arguing that the zoning board failed to consider other proposed construction plans for the property that would better serve the neighbors’ interests. The high court addressed the neighbor’s arguments, finding that the zoning board did not err in granting the appellee’s variance request. Notably, the Court found that the zoning board relied on sufficient evidence in approving the variance, and did not abuse its discretion in granting the variance. As a result of the Court’s ruling, the appellees will be permitted to construct their home.

Start the Process of Resolving Your Rhode Island Real Estate Issues Today 

If you are seeking to develop Rhode Island property or to challenge a neighbor’s proposed construction, the best time to make your arguments is during the initial proceedings with the zoning board. The experienced Rhode Island real estate attorneys with Bilodeau Capalbo, LLP know the importance of making a compelling case to a zoning board from the start. With our help, you can be confident that your desired results will be achieved without the need for a costly appeal. If you have questions about a Rhode Island zoning or permit issue, reach out for a free consultation. Contact our offices today and schedule a free consultation by calling 401-300-4055.

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