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Rhode Island Supreme Court Limits Zoning Appeals

Lupo v. Community Works Rhode Island Inc., et al., 2012 WL 6585 278 (RI), involved Plaintiff’s challenge to use and dimensional variances granted to Defendant Applicant.  The challenge was by declaratory judgment but the Superior Court affirmed both actions and plaintiff appealed.

The Supreme Court determined, based on Rhode Island precedent, that there was no appeal from the Superior Court judgment in zoning matters.  Rather, review was by writ of certiorari.  While the challenge below was brought by declaratory judgment, the basis for the controversy was a reviewable Zoning Board decision.  According to the court, the use of a declaratory judgment is not a means to bypass the statutory mechanism of the state to review superior court decisions in zoning matters.  Rather, a discretionary certiorari review was the sole basis for such a challenge.  Accordingly, the appeal was denied and dismissed.

This case shows the courts are particular about the means by which land use decisions may be reviewed.  While the declaratory judgment offers a means by which actions, which do not have appeal or review mechanisms, may be tested, that form of action is not a substitute for existing appeal or review mechanisms.

Lupo v. Community Works Rhode Island Inc., et al., 2012 WL 6585 278 (RI).

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