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Rhode Island Superior Court Dismisses Developers’ Claim Against Town

Developing a large real estate project in Rhode Island can be a complicated, time-consuming, and expensive process. Securing financing and obtaining zoning and other permits can be tricky, and the success or failure of a proposed development often relies on the decisions of municipal councils, zoning boards, or other administrative bodies. A group of plaintiffs recently sued a Rhode Island town for its failure to timely and properly approve their plans to develop real estate within the town limits.

The plaintiffs in the recently decided case are a group of developers who sought to construct a nearly 1000-acre planned development in the town of Richmond, Rhode Island. The plaintiff’s development was to include a golf course, a clubhouse, outdoor recreation trails, a gun range, as well as a hotel. In 2011, the plaintiffs informally notified the Town that they were seeking to construct a gun range on the property, and discussed the plans at public hearings held by the town.

The plaintiffs discovered in 2014 that the town council had amended the municipal ordinances to prohibit gun ranges from being built on the type of property the plaintiff sought to develop. Two years later, the property was rezoned so that a gun range could be constructed on the property, and the plaintiffs resumed the pursuit of that goal. The plaintiffs secured conditional financing for the project and began selling memberships to the gun range before obtaining approval from the town. The town did not hold a public hearing on the plaintiff’s proposed construction until after the plaintiffs’ financing offer had expired, and the plaintiffs were not able to continue with the project.

The plaintiffs sued the town of Richmond in 2021, making various allegations that the town arbitrarily and maliciously acted to prevent them from completing their project. The Rhode Island Superior Court ultimately rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims, ruling that the town was legally justified in all of its actions concerning the plaintiff’s proposal. Specifically, the court found that there was no evidence or legal basis to find that the municipal defendants intentionally sought to thwart the plaintiffs’ plan. The Court found that the plaintiffs had several chances to gain approval for their project and that the failure to do so was solely the plaintiff’s responsibility.

If you or an associate are seeking to develop property in Rhode Island, coordinating the permitting, financing, and construction process may be more difficult than it appears. Municipalities must meet statutory requirements in addressing permit requests, although cities and towns are still given much discretion when evaluating requests. To avoid unexpected and harmful delays or denials, developers should retain an experienced Rhode Island real estate development attorney early in the process. The knowledgeable real estate attorneys with Bilodeau Capalbo have assisted with dozens of successful development projects in Rhode Island. Our qualified zoning and development lawyers understand how to prevent local zoning boards and courts from impeding your project. 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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