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Do Rhode Island Landowner’s Need Approval to Subdivide Their Property?

The laws and regulations that apply to subdivisions of land vary by the locality and the specifications of the property, making some Rhode Island real estate disputes quite complex. The high court in neighboring Massachusetts confronted these complexities when it decided a case involving the subdivision of land that took place in 1964.

Evidently, in 1964, a lot was divided into two separate lots without having the plan presented to the local planning board. Later, the owner of one of the lots applied for a permit to build a house on the lot. The building inspector denied the permit. The plaintiff brought the case to the planning board, which determined that the division of the lot was not in compliance with the subdivision control law. On appeal before the state’s supreme judicial court, the court considered whether the division was considered a subdivision according to the subdivision control law and the local zoning ordinance, and if it was not, whether it still had to be approved by the planning board.

The state’s supreme judicial court reversed the lower court’s decision. The court decided that the division did not require approval from the planning board at the time, and that it met the legal requirements for the division of the land at the time. The subdivision control law stated that a subdivision could not be made unless it was first approved by the local planning board. However, certain divisions of land were excluded from the meaning of “subdivision.” For example, a division was excluded if each new lot had sufficient frontage on a public way to satisfy the applicable local zoning ordinance.

In this case, the two newly created lots both had the required amount of frontage on a public way, and therefore, did not require planning board approval. The court also decided that the division met all the other requirements for the division of land that existed at the time. Therefore, the building permit was improperly denied.

Subdivision of Land

A subdivision of land is generally the division of a lot into smaller lots. Subdivision typically requires prior approval and recording the subdivision and a final map after completion, although there can be exceptions. Whether a subdivision of land must meet certain legal requirements often depends on the meaning of the term subdivision under the applicable law. Each jurisdiction has different requirements to subdivide property lawfully, and understanding the applicable laws and regulations is essential.

Contact a Rhode Island Real Estate Lawyer

Property laws change regularly, making some Rhode Island real estate issues exceedingly complex. If you are concerned about a property dispute or transaction, consulting with an experienced real estate attorney is essential. The Rhode Island real estate lawyers at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC represent clients in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Our experienced lawyers can help you negotiate and draft purchase and sale agreements, handle land title issues, fight adverse possession claims, resolve boundary line disputes, and more. Call us at 401-300-4055 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation.

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