THE GERALD P. ZARRELLA TRUST, GERALD P. ZARRELLA, in his capacity as TRUSTEE and GERALD'S FARM, LLC
TOWN OF EXETER, by and through the members of the Town Council, Raymond A Morrissey, JR., in his capacity as President, DANIEL W. PATTERSON, in his capacity as Vice President, KEVIN P. MCGOVERN, ARLENE B. HICKS and CALVIN A. ELLIS
County Superior Court
Plaintiff: William J. Conley, Jr., Esq.
Defendant:James P. Marusak, Esq.
this Court is the Gerald P. Zarrella Trust (the Trust),
Gerald P. Zarrella, in his capacity as Trustee, and
Gerald's Farm, LLC's (collectively the Plaintiffs)
request for a declaration pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
9-30-1, et seq. Plaintiffs ask this Court to declare
that the 2014 Amendments to the "Right to Farm Act"
(the Act) supersede the terms of a prior Consent Judgment
between the parties that prohibit the Plaintiffs from
conducting commercial events on the Plaintiffs' property
located at 270 Narrow Lane in Exeter, Rhode Island (the
Property). G.L. 1956 §§ 2-23-1 et seq. For
the reasons set forth in this Decision, this Court holds that
the Act does not grant the Plaintiffs the rights they seek.
Therefore, this Court declines to issue the requested
I Facts and Travel
about March 11, 2003, the Plaintiff Trust purchased the
Property, a thirty-two acre parcel located at 270 Narrow
Lane, in Exeter, Rhode Island (the Town). Verified Compl. at
¶¶ 8-9. The Trust is the current owner of record of
the Property. Id. at ¶ 8.
Property is in an RU-4 zone. (Stipulated Facts, Mar. 2,
2016.) The Zoning Ordinance explicitly states that any use
that is not allowed by the use table is specifically
prohibited. Id. The Ordinance has no provision that
allows commercial wedding venues, corporate rentals, or
commercial event venues in an RU-4 zone. See Exeter
Zoning Ordinance, Art. II §§ 2.3.2; 18.104.22.168 et
seq. Therefore, wedding venues, corporate rentals, and
commercial event venues are not permitted in an RU-4 zone in
Exeter pursuant to Exeter's Zoning Ordinance. See
in 2011, the Plaintiffs began advertising the Property as a
commercial wedding and event venue. The Town filed suit
seeking to enjoin the Plaintiffs from using the Property as a
commercial wedding and event venue, contending that such a
use violated the Exeter Zoning Ordinance. See Town of
Exeter v. Gerald P. Zarrella Trust, Gerald P. Zarrella,
Trust, et al., C.A. No. WC-11-0272.
7, 2011, the parties entered into an Amended Consent
Judgment. The Amended Consent Judgment provided, in pertinent
"A permanent injunction shall enter against the Trust,
permanently enjoining and restraining the Trust, its trustees
and their successors, heirs and assigns from using or renting
the property located at 270 Narrow Lane, Exeter, Rhode
Island, known as Gerald's Farm (the "Property")
for weddings for a fee or other commercial events."
"this permanent injunction is intended to, and shall be
construed to, run with the land, and be binding upon all
Trustee, successors, heirs and assigns of the Trust and its
Trustees unless and until such time as and to the
extent that the terms of this permanent injunction are
superseded by statute, regulation, or other competent
administrative or judicial authority or order."
(Am. Consent Judgment (emphasis added); Verified Compl.
was subsequently amended in 2014. The Legislature's
express purpose in enacting the Act was "to promote an
environment in which agricultural operations are safeguarded
against nuisance actions arising out of conflicts between
agricultural operations and urban land uses." Sec.
Property has been designated as "farmland" pursuant
to G.L. 1956 § 44-27-3. (Stipulated Facts, Mar. 2,
2016.) Since the Amended Consent Judgment was entered, Exeter
has not amended its Zoning Ordinance to allow commercial
weddings or events venues in an RU-4 zone. Exeter Zoning
Ordinance, Art. II §§ 2.3.2; 22.214.171.124. However, the
Plaintiffs argue that the amendment to the Act permits
commercial events to take place on farms and farmlands even
if local zoning would not permit such events, and thus, the