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Rhode Island Superior Court Rejects Washington County Solar Farm Proposal

The increasing popularity and practicality of green energy production are causing conflicts between energy producers and rural residents nationwide and in Rhode Island specifically. Non-renewable energy production has commonly played a role in rural American life, through fossil fuel extraction and refining. The production of power using wind and solar energy is a more recent arrival, and rural residents may not be pleased to be in the vicinity of such developments. Conflicts involving a recently proposed solar energy farm in the town of Exeter, Rhode Island ideally demonstrate this phenomenon. In a recently issued ruling, the Rhode Island Superior Court affirmed the town’s rejection of a solar farm project proposed by the plaintiff.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff in the recently decided case is an energy development company that intended to build a solar energy project on 32 acres of land they own in the town of Exeter. Under local zoning and building ordinances, the plaintiff sought approval for the plan from the Town of Exeter Planning Board for the project. While negotiating compliance with the applicable regulations, several issues arose that the plaintiff was asked to address before seeking final approval for the project. These issues included the road access to the project, compliance with drainage and grading requirements, the environmental impact of the project, as well as the effects on neighboring property owners’ use and enjoyment of their own property.

The plaintiff attempted to address all of the issues presented by the Planning board and submitted their application. The Board found that the plaintiff had not sufficiently addressed all of the issues, and the board could not approve the project. The plaintiff appealed the ruling first to the zoning board of review, and ultimately to the State Superior Court, where it was rejected both times. The court ultimately ruled that the plaintiff failed to meet six requirements that were mandatory for the project to go forward. Notably, the plaintiff did not demonstrate that the proposal was environmentally safe, legally accessible, or consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan. As a result of these findings, the plaintiff will be unable to resume the development of their plan.

Speak with a Rhode Island Real Estate Lawyer Today

Planning and proposing a development project in Rhode Island can feel like walking a tightrope at times, several competing interests can all interplay in the development process to place unexpected obstacles in the way. Projects that include newer technologies or uncommon uses of real estate are especially likely to be challenged. Anyone interested in a real estate or utility development project in Rhode Island must have a carefully planned legal strategy to meet all of the administrative and other requirements for approval. The qualified Rhode Island real estate and commercial development attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLP have experience assisting our clients with zoning and permitting issues, to ensure that their plans can go through whenever possible. Contact us to have assistance as early in the process as possible, as submitting the best plan at the start of the process will increase the likelihood of easy approval. If you or an associate seek advice for a Rhode Island zoning or permit issue, contact us for a free consultation. Contact our offices today and schedule a free consultation by calling 401-300-4055.

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