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What Are Zoning Regulations in Rhode Island?

Gene Kirzhner Nov. 16, 2021

Zoning in Rhode Island is one of the more complex areas of real estate law in the state. In simple terms, zoning is the process of a city or town dividing the land and designating it for specific acceptable or unacceptable use. For example, Rhode Island’s zoning laws determine whether a manufacturer is allowed to build a factory on a particular plot of land or whether a homeowner is allowed to run their business out of a specific area of their home.

Rhode Island’s state government passed the Rhode Island Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Act as a way to combat their lack of a uniform zoning system. The Act was created to enact a zoning system that allowed municipal discretion throughout the state.

In Rhode Island, all land is loosely classified into the categories below, also known as zoning districts:

  • Commercial

  • Residential

  • Industrial

  • Downtown

  • Waterfront

  • Institutional

  • Special purpose

  • Open space and public space

While all of Rhode Island land is categorized into the above zoning districts, there are also restrictions on how the property may be used. Therefore, not all the property in a zoning district will have the same restrictions.

For example, a company wanting to open their restaurant on a recently purchased property must first confirm that the land is not just in a commercial zoning district, but also that there are no use restrictions in that location.

Once a property owner’s intended use for the property is permitted, they can then move forward with the permit process. On the other hand, if the intended use is not permitted, the property owner will then seek zoning relief, such as a use variance or zone change. In cases such as these, it may be in the property owner’s best interest to seek the help of a Rhode Island zoning attorney to help guide them throughout the process.

In addition, Rhode Island zoning laws determine the dimensions of properties, such as lot size and dimensions, building locations, and parking and landscaping signage requirements. If a property owner fails to comply with the requirements, they may turn to the local zoning board for help or consider contacting a Rhode Island real estate attorney for help.

To learn more about zoning regulations in Rhode Island, contact The Law Offices of Howe and Garside. Our experienced and qualified attorneys can help keep you informed and, most importantly, help you achieve the best possible outcome. We look forward to hearing from you!