Land UseAmendments to Land Zoning Codes and Special Use Permits in R.I.

June 5, 20200
The Content of Land Zoning Codes/Ordinances

Land zoning codes, also referred to as zoning ordinances or zoning codes of ordinances, contain two elements. First, they contain the language of the various rules a municipality creates to define what uses are allowed within each assigned zoning district. Here are the Town of West Greenwich’s land zoning codes, for example. Second, they contain maps visually displaying the boundaries of each zoning district. The maps show the approved uses in each zone (such as this one for Cranston). The zoning districts track the land use categories/designations in that municipality.

The land zoning code maps are almost always distinguished by assigning different colors to each district on a map of the municipality. Amending a land zoning code can take two different forms. When there are proposals to amend the land zoning code to allow or disallow a particular use, approved amendments change the language of the ordinance. When there are proposals to amend the type of zoning applied to an area, the maps need updating as well to reflect the new zoning The updated maps reflect the new code(s) which change the zoning code of that area,

Proposed Amendments in Providence

In Providence, the City Council meeting on May 7, 2020 saw the introduction of an amendment to the City Zoning Ordinance. The proposal would eliminate the opening of new incinerator or waste facilities. The proposal cited the lack of appropriate space in a densely populated city such as Providence. The City’s Department of Planning and Development recommended denying the amendment. This was due to concern about whether the amendment would affect future expansion of the transfer station operated by the city and/or the Narragansett Bay Commission’s sewage treatment plant.

The proposal was sent to the Ordinance Committee for review, which discussed the topic in its May 28, 2020 meeting. In the agenda packet for that meeting, the language of the amendment indicates that the “Incinerator/Waste facility” use will be removed from use in the two zoning districts it was previously allowed in – W-3 and M-MU. The amendment process is still ongoing.

Proposed Amendments in Richmond

In Richmond, the Planning Board met remotely on May 26, 2020 to hear two different applications seeking to amend land zoning codes for two specific projects. These projects would require special use permits in order to allow medical marijuana compassion centers in zones which currently do not permit them. The Town already allows cultivation, but not sales of marijuana.

A special use permit is sought by applicants through the land zoning codes, creating an exception to the rules. There are special rules and additional analysis used in determining whether to approve a special use permit. A special use permit is different from a permit sought for uses which are allowed under the land zoning codes.

The first application requests a special use permit to allow the compassion center in the “planned unit development – village center” zoning district. The second application seeks a special use permit for a compassion center in the “general business” zoning district. The special use permits being sought are a certain type of amendment, which are specific to that project and assessed on a case-by-case basis.

If you are seeking to amend your municipality’s land zoning codes, applying for a special use permit, or have questions about zoning code enforcement, our attorneys are here to consult on the process and assist with meeting your goals. Email or call us today at 401.477.0023.

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