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Rhode Island Superior Court Reverses Zoning Board Decision Permitting Construction of Second Dwelling on Residential Lot

Rhode Island property owners may have several reasons for modifying the construction of a home or business building. Transforming a single-family residence into a multi-family dwelling can increase property values and potential uses for a piece of real estate. If a property owner is interested in modifying a structure or constructing additional units on their piece of real estate, they are required to obtain the approval of a municipal zoning board before starting construction. Zoning board decisions that approve or deny a proposed modification of an existing structure or lot may be appealed to a higher court, and might not stand after review.

In an opinion issued last year, the Rhode Island Superior Court reversed a decision by the Zoning Board Review of the City of Newport, which had allowed a property owner to demolish a small cottage on their land and replace it with another home. The recently decided case concerned a proposal by a Newport property owner to demolish a one-bedroom cottage that had been behind their house since the 1940s and replace it with a three-bedroom home that would be inhabited by the property owners’ son and his family. The property owner approached the zoning board and sought a special use permit for the construction, as was required under state law. After considering the objections of a neighboring property owner, the zoning board approved the permit to allow the demolition of the cottage and construction of the second home on the lot.

The neighbor appealed the board’s decision to the Rhode Island Superior Court, arguing that the proposed construction was forbidden under state law and that the zoning board abused their discretion by granting the special use permit. The high court heard arguments in the case from all parties, and determined that the municipal ordinance governing residential development prohibited the construction of two principal dwellings on one lot.

The court disagreed with the zoning board’s finding that the proposed construction could be permitted under the section of the ordinance that allows multi-family dwellings consisting of separate units (like a duplex). Because the ordinance is clear that two single-family homes cannot be built on a single lot of the type at issue, the high court vacated the zoning board’s decision, and the proposed construction will not be allowed.

Are You Looking for a Rhode Island Real Estate Lawyer?

If you are interested in modifying or adding to a building on your property, municipal ordinances and state laws must be followed to legally make the changes you desire. Each municipality has different zoning rules, and multiple types of property exist that may or may not permit the kind of construction you are interested in. Seeking the advice of a qualified Rhode Island real estate attorney early in the process can help you ensure that you are not wasting time and money planning construction for a project that will ultimately be denied. The Rhode Island real estate attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC are experienced with zoning issues, and can help you decide how to gain approval from municipal boards for unique construction projects. Call and schedule an appointment to discuss your case with an experienced attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo today by contacting our offices at 401-300-4055.

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