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Factors to Be Considered When Seeking a Dimensional Variance in Rhode Island

Some of the most common types of cases currently coming through Rhode Island administrative boards and courts involve the request for a dimensional variance to expand or modify an existing home structure. As demonstrated in previous posts on our blog, the opinion of the municipal zoning board is given great deference by later courts when these decisions are appealed. Zoning boards consider a variety of factors when deciding whether to approve or deny a dimensional variance request. A recent zoning board decision that has been upheld by the Rhode Island Superior Court can demonstrate the best ways to make these points to the zoning board.

A dimensional variance is essentially a permit that is issued by a municipal zoning board in order to allow a property owner to build a structure on their property that would be forbidden under the existing zoning regulations of the municipality. Generally, variances are issued to allow construction that would violate the setback, height, area, or location requirements of the zoning ordinances. The plaintiff in the recently decided case was requesting a variance to allow him to add an addition to his home that would transform the structure from an “L” shape into a rectangular structure. The plaintiff requested the change because he was cohabitating with a new partner, as well as to support his desire to move his laundry facilities from the basement to the main floor as he got older and struggles with using the stars on a regular basis.

A neighbor of the plaintiff objected to his proposal at a public hearing, noting that the current regulations would not permit such a structure on the existing lot size. It is unclear why the neighbor opposed the petitioner’s proposal, but the zoning board considered several factors when unanimously approving the petitioner’s proposal in the face of the neighbors’ opposition. First, the zoning board noted that the petitioner’s proposal to “fill in the L” shape would not encroach any further on any neighbor’s property, so the prejudice to the neighbors was minimal by granting the request. Additionally, the zoning board noted that the petitioner’s growing family and issues related to aging were reasonable considerations in allowing the constriction to proceed. Finally, the board agreed with the petitioner, that the character of the neighborhood would not be negatively affected by granting the variance. As a result of these findings, the board issued the variance. The neighbor appealed the decision, but it was upheld by the state court upon review.

Are You in Need of a Dimensional Variance in Rhode Island?

If you are seeking to modify or reconstruct a home in Rhode Island, you may need to apply for a dimensional variance before starting your project. Zoning boards consider many factors in deciding whether to issue a variance. For the best chance of approval, it is important to have a strong case on all relevant factors from the outset. The Rhode Island zoning lawyers at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLP can help you get your project approved as quickly and painlessly as possible. Our experienced property attorneys understand the most important arguments to make before the local zoning board to increase the chances of your project’s approval. If you have questions about a Rhode Island zoning or permit issue, call us at 401-300-4055 for a free consultation.

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