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Galilee Mission, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Review of Town of Narragansett

Superior Court of Rhode Island

December 21, 2016

THE GALILEE MISSION, INC.
v.
ZONING BOARD OF REVIEW OF THE TOWN OF NARRAGANSETT, JAMES MANNING, ROBERT FERRARO, JOSEPH PAGLIA, GERALDINE CITRONE, and JOHN KENNEDY, in their official capacities only as Members of the Zoning Board of Review of the Town of Narragansett

          For Plaintiff: John F. Kenyon, Esq.

          For Defendant: Dawson T. Hodgson, Esq.

          DECISION

          GALLO, J.

         Before the Court is an appeal of a decision from the Zoning Board of Review of the Town of Narragansett, Rhode Island (the Zoning Board) upholding the building official's decision. Appellant, the Galilee Mission, Inc. (Appellant or the Galilee Mission), asks the Court to reverse the Zoning Board's decision concerning property at 70 Inez Street, Narragansett, Rhode Island (the Property). The Zoning Board found that the Galilee Mission's planned purchase of the Property constituted a furthering of its business purpose, and it upheld the building official's decision that renting the Property to graduates of the Galilee Mission substance abuse program was prohibited by the Town of Narragansett Zoning Ordinance (Zoning Ordinance). For the following reasons, the Court reverses the Zoning Board's decision.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The Galilee Mission is a residential substance abuse treatment program located at 268 Kingstown Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island (the Mission House). The program is licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Health and Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals and provides treatment for up to twelve residents at the Mission House. The Galilee Mission has a special use permit (Special Use Permit), approved in 1991, to operate a group home for twelve residents at the Mission House. (Special Use Permit Decision, Dec. 3, 1991, Opp. Ex. 1H.)

         The instant appeal arises from the Galilee Mission's plans to purchase the Inez Street Property to use as a residential rental property and to rent it to graduates of its program. Currently, the Property is a two-family residential home located in an R-10 zoning district. The Zoning Ordinance permits two-family dwelling or duplex use in an R-10 zoning district, pursuant to its Table of Use Regulations. Town of Narragansett Zoning Ordinance, § 6.3.

         Concerned neighbors of the Property alerted the building official, Anthony L. Santilli, Jr. (Building Official), of Galilee Mission's intended use of the Property. As a result, the Building Official approached the Executive Director of the Galilee Mission, Lynn Costigan (Costigan), about the potential purpose, and, in response, Costigan provided him with a summary (Summary) of the plans for the Property. After receipt of the Summary, on May 6, 2015, the Building Official issued a decision letter (Decision Letter) to Costigan. The Decision Letter provided in part as follows:

"Please be advised that this office has reviewed your request to rent 70 Inez Street to tenants who have graduated the substance abuse program at the Galilee Mission. Under Section 6.3 of Chapter 731 Zoning, any use not permitted by this ordinance shall be deemed prohibited.
"You have the right to appeal this decision, obtain a use variance or apply to the Town Council to change the Table of Use Regulation 6.1 of Chapter 731 Zoning." (Building Official Decision Letter, Appellant App. 2.)

         On May 14, 2015, the Galilee Mission appealed the Building Official's Decision Letter.

         On June 18, 2015, the Zoning Board held a public hearing regarding the Galilee Mission's appeal. At the public hearing, Costigan, Russell W. Brown (Brown), a zoning expert, and several graduates of the Galilee Mission testified on behalf of the Galilee Mission. Brown testified that, based on his understanding of the Zoning Ordinance and the Property, the proposed use as a residential property is permitted. The Galilee Mission graduates who testified spoke about their positive experiences with the Galilee Mission's treatment programs and the progress they have made in their lives as a result. Neighboring property owners of the Property testified in opposition to the Galilee Mission's appeal, expressing concerns with the Galilee Mission expanding further into their neighborhood, especially given the fact that occasionally program graduates will relapse.

         Costigan testified as to the Galilee Mission's program and purpose:

"In general. [sic] Galilee Mission is a residential treatment program. We cater to 6 to 12 residents. In the Mission House we do treatment. It's a 6-month, like I said, residential. We get people back to work, back out in the community and staying clean and sober." (Tr. 4, June 18, 2015, Appellee Ex. 1.)

         Costigan also testified that the Property is a two-family dwelling unit. Id. at 5. She stated that the Galilee Mission planned to buy the Property to "rent it as . . . a residence, " not to provide "treatment." Id. at 6. Among other considerations, the Galilee Mission's intent in purchasing the property is to provide additional income for the organization in light of potential changes ...


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