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O'Sullivan v. Town of North Kingstown

Superior Court of Rhode Island

May 26, 2015

COLIN M. O'SULLIVAN, RICKEY L. THOMPSON, KMSTEN MAROTTO, BARBARA HART, FRANK FIORI, ROBM WILSON, JOHN METRO, PETER TRASK, JULIE CASEMERE, TODB SABITONI, THERESA FLORIO, JEFFEREY COOK, CARL SCHAEFER, BRENDA RICCI, LYNDA AVANZATO, PATRICK MCHUGH, JEANNE TIRRELL, ROBERT WALASON, RALPH CROCKFORB, EMMA MCGEE, TIM MCGEE, PATRICK HASKELL, ROBERT FAMIGLIETTI, MEGHAN BULLARB, RAYMOND DESANTIS, FRANK CASTELA, GREGORY HALL, SOUTHLAND COMMUNICATIONS, INC. THE TOWN OF EXETER, by and through its TOWN COUNCIL, ARLENE B. HICKS, WILLIAM P. MONAHAN, RAYMOND A. MORRISSEY, JR., ROBERT JOHNSON, CALVIN A. ELLIS, in their official capacity Plaintiffs
v.
TOWN OF NORTH KINGSTOWN and the NORTH KINGSTOWN TOWN COUNCIL, ELIZABETH S. DOLAN, KEVIN V. MALONEY. KERRY P, MCKAY., CAROL H. HUESTON, RICHARD A. WELCH in their capacity as members of the NORTH KINGSTOWN TOWN COUNCIL, and MX. HAWK REALTY LLC, Defendants

Washington, SC.

DECISION

THUNBERG, J.

This matter is before the Court for decision upon the Defendants' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment under Rule 56 of the Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure, pursuant to an appeal by Plaintiffs from a decision of the Town of North Kingstown's Town Council (Town Council) on June 23' 2014 to amend the Town's Comprehensive Plan and adopt Ordinance Nos. 14-15 and 14-16.

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 45-24-71. For the reasons that follow, this Court grants Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment to affirm the validity of Ordinance Nos. 14-15 and 14-16 adopted by the Town Council.

I

Findings of Fact

This controversy originated in 2012 when the Town of North Kingstown Planning Commission (the Planning Commission) and the Town Council began discussing and planning how the Town of North Kingstown (the Town) could implement its "strategic vision" for the development of the intersection of Route 102 and Route 2. Some residents of the Town had expressed concern about land use development with the potential of exasperating sprawl-type development, burdensome to land and water resources. The Town enlisted experts and conducted hearings to design a development scheme in conformance with the State of Rhode Island's development goals and to enact a comprehensive plan in order for the Town to attain those goals, The Town Council ultimately reviewed a proposal to adopt amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and North Kingstown Code of Ordinances (the Code) which would allow limited, compact mixed residential and commercial "village" use in the area of the Route 102/Route 2 intersection.

A public hearing was held on November 29, 2012, wherein the Planning Commission recommended that the Town Council adopt the comprehensive plan and the ordinance amendments, The Council subsequently voted to adopt both recommendations. Following those changes, many of the Plaintiffs in the instant case challenged the Town Council's decision in Colin M. O'Sullivan, et al. v. Town of North Kingstown, et al., WC-2012-0789. In that suit, because both the plaintiffs and the defendants conceded that certain errors had been made in noticing the hearings to the public, a consent judgment was entered invalidating the 2012 Comprehensive Plan and Code changes.

The Planning Commission and Town Council thereafter resumed planning for the Route 102/Route 2 intersection and convened additional public hearings, In April of 2014, the Town introduced Ordinance Nos. 14-15[1] and 14-16, [2] which proposed to change fourteen parcels of land (Plat 110, Lots 2-11; Plat 126, Lot 5; and Plat 102, Lots 8-7 and 25) to Compact Village District (CVD) zoning and changed the public water service map, allowing certain parcels to continue using public water and removing other parcels from the service, The hearing in front of the Planning Commission was held on May 20, 2014, at which time the Planning Commission voted to recommend to the Town Council passage of the Comprehensive Plan amendment and Ordinance Nos. 14-15 and 14-16.

The Town Council scheduled a hearing for June 23, 2014 and published notice in the North Kingstown Standard Times on June 5, June 12, and June 19, 2014. The advertisement contained a notice of both the Comprehensive Plan amendment and zoning and water use map amendments. The notice described the matters to be addressed at the healing, stating that it was "for the purpose of considering amendments to the North Kingstown Comprehensive Plan text, Future Land Use Map, and Water Service Area map." (Defs.' Mem, in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. F, 1.) The notice described the changes to be made to the North Kingstown Comprehensive Plan text and land use classifications (included a table listing the planned designation changes to particular parcels) and provided a map showing the parcels intended to be changed. Id., at 1-7. The advertisement described when and where the hearing was to take place, when and where the Ml proposals could be viewed ahead of the meeting, and stated that proposed amendments could be changed prior to the close of the public hearing without additional advertising. Id

The notice additionally described the Water Service Area Map Amendment, Ordinance No. 14-16, as "chang[ing] the North Kingstown Water Service Area map to include areas in town that are currently targeted for future growth and development such as Hamilton, Allenton, Lafayette, Wickford, Post Road, Wickford Junction, and Hie western intersection of Route 2 and 102 in Hie vicinity of the Corner Tavern and Rolling Greens." Id. The notice listed several other town areas and stated that "[a]ll other areas in town not listed above will be removed from the Water Service Area Map." Id.

Notice of the zoning ordinance and zoning map amendments, Ordinance No, 14-15, were published on the same days and stated that "[t]he proposed amendments are requesting to amend the zoning ordinance map so as to change the land use classifications of the below described properties to Compact Village Development (CVD)." A table and map of proposed parcels to be changed were included. (Defs.' Mem. hi Supp. of Mot. for Suram, J., Ex. G, 1-5.) The advertisement again stated when and where the hearing was to take place, when and where the full proposals could be viewed ahead of the meeting and noted that the proposed amendments could be changed prior to the close of the public hearing without additional advertising. Id.

At the hearing on June 23, 2014, many members of the community appeared to give testimony to the Town Council. At least twenty-six people, a majority of which were members of the public, appeared before the Town Council to give a presentation or to make a statement about the proposed amendments. Representatives of the Plaintiffs in this matter presented testimony to the Town Council, including that of Plaintiffs' expert, Ashley V. Hahn, Plaintiffs' expert (then the planning director of the City of West Warwick). After heating from the public, the Town Council deliberated in open session and ultimately voted three to two in favor of adopting the Comprehensive Plan amendment and Ordinance Nos. 14-15 and 14-16.

Exactly one month later, on July 23, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint seeking to overturn the Comprehensive Plan amendments and the 2014 Zoning Ordinance and Map Changes. The Plaintiffs maintain that the hearing notice was defective and they additionally challenge the validity of both the Comprehensive Plan amendments and the ordinance and map changes. The Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment to declare the amendments valid. The Plaintiffs have filed a cross-summary judgment motion and, by order of this Court, the parties were required to submit memoranda addressing Plaintiffs' standing to bring suit on a challenge to a comprehensive plan amendment and the issue of ...


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