Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 27, 2014

RI Supreme Court Holds Where There is an Omission of a Frontage Requirement in a Zoning Ordinance the Court Will Infer that No Such Requirement Exists

This case arose from the petitioner submitting an application to the Scituate Building Official to build a single-family home on an unimproved lot. The building official denied petitioner’s request, citing numerous deficiencies with petitioner’s proposed plans, including a lack of street frontage. The building official found that the unimproved lot “[h]as no street frontage, therefore no width, and therefore is not eligible for a Building Permit under Article IV–Section 3 of the Zoning Ordinance.” The petitioner then filed an appeal to the Town of Scituate Zoning Board of Review, arguing that the zoning ordinance does not mandate frontage and that the unimproved lot met all the dimensional requirements in its particular zoning district (RR–120). The petitioner then applied for a dimensional variance for lot width and height on the unimproved lot, in the event frontage was required. The zoning board unanimously denied both petitioner’s appeal and request for variance.

The petitioner further contends that the unimproved lot and the improved lot are two separate, lawfully created lots that have never merged. The court reasoned that because the language of the ordinance clearly and unambiguously delineates the dimensional requirements, a plain meaning of the requirements in the context of the entire ordinance can be applied. Since the ordinance requires frontage in certain situations, and the frontage requirement in district RR–120 was omitted, the court concluded that no such frontage requirement exists.

Iadevaia v. Town of Scituate Zoning Bd. of Rev., 80 A.3d 864 (R.I. 12/23/2013)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/Opinions/11-338.pdf


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