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Renewable Resources, Inc. v. Town of Westerly

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

March 4, 2015

Renewable Resources, Inc.
v.
Town of Westerly

Page 1167

Washington County Superior Court. (WC-09-637). Associate Justice Brian P. Stern.

For Plaintiff: Kelly M. Fracassa, Esq.

For Defendant: Lauren E. Jones, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ. Justice Goldberg did not participate.

OPINION

Page 1168

Indeglia, Justice

The plaintiff, Renewable Resources, Inc. (Renewable Resources or plaintiff), appeals from a Superior Court order vacating a preliminary injunction halting demolition of the Potter Hill Mill (the mill), as well as a subsequent judgment dismissing the remaining counts of the plaintiff's amended complaint against the defendant the Town of Westerly (the town or defendant). On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the hearing justice abused his discretion in failing to find a change of conditions warranting the mill's demolition. After a thorough review of the record and consideration of the parties' written submissions and oral arguments, we affirm the order and judgment of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

In the 1950s, the Potter Hill Mill, a vestige of this country's Industrial Revolution located on the Pawcatuck River in Westerly, ceased its operations. In 1980, with the condition of the mill's buildings worsening, the town sought to have it demolished, and a demolition order was eventually issued. The demolition order was upheld by the Rhode Island Building Code Standards Committee; and, in 1984, a Rhode Island District Court judge affirmed the order to demolish the mill for safety reasons. Demolition, however, did not take place. In 1992, plaintiff purchased the mill for $50,000 " as is." In 2006, plaintiff and the town entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA), in which plaintiff recognized the validity of the condemnation order and pledged to meet a series of conditions in order to stave off demolition. The MOA required that plaintiff fence off the property, clean up debris, and expeditiously pursue its development plan. Further, the MOA explicitly granted the town the power to determine whether plaintiff was in breach of the MOA's conditions.

On August 21, 2009, aware of the mill's continuing deterioration and plaintiff's failure to expeditiously pursue its development plan, the town placed a newspaper advertisement requesting proposals for the demolition of the mill. On September 11, 2009, plaintiff responded by filing the instant action in the Washington County Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction against the town

Page 1169

barring demolition of the mill's buildings.[1] In its answer, the town alleged that plaintiff's failure to comply with the MOA's requirement of due diligence was sufficient to grant " the Town the right to condemn and * * * demolish the building." The town also filed an objection to the requested temporary restraining order, as well as a motion for the court to conduct a view of the mill. A Superior Court justice subsequently granted plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order, and the parties ...


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