Following the purchase of a 65 acre parcel of land in 2005, the Plaintiff sought to subdivide it and discovered that that in 1998 the Town had adopted new zoning ordinance, including comprehensive amendments to the zoning ordinance text and map, which in effect decreased the number of buildable lots within the Plaintiff’s property. The Plaintiff alleged that when the town adopted these amendments, they failed to follow the required procedural requirement for adopting zoning ordinances pursuant to the town’s Home Rule Charter. The Plaintiff also claimed that its predecessor-in-title had never received notice of the proposed amendments which was required pursuant to state law.
At issue is the appropriate method of challenging the action for purposes of determining whether or not the claim is timely approximately 8 years after the zoning amendments. The Plaintiff brought a challenge based on the state Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act seeking a declaration that the amendment was void ab initio since it was adopted in contravention of both the Town Charter and the notice requirements set forth in state statute. The Town moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the claims were time-barred by a 30-day statute of limitations on the enactment of a zoning ordinance.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court concluded that the action was not an appeal of the town council’s actions, which would be subject to the 30-day limitation period. Rather, the Court found that although there may have been other avenues of relief, the Plaintiff is not precluded from bringing an action under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act seeking a determination as to whether the town exceeded its authority in enacting the ordinance.
The Supreme Court therefore remanded the matter to the Superior Court for further proceedings.
Tucker Estates Charlestown, LLC v. Town of Charleston, 2009 WL 485137 (R.I. 2/27/2009).
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