County Superior Court
LaPlante, Esq. For Plaintiff:
Nicholas Gorham, Esq.; John S. Brunero Jr., Esq. For
matter is before the Court on appeal from a final decision of
the Coventry Zoning Board of Review (Board or Zoning Board),
which on July 2, 2014 approved an application for a
dimensional variance to allow BC Property, LLC. (Applicant or
BC Property) to maintain a garbage receptacle (dumpster) in
front of the business operated by its tenant on Plat 45, Lot
51 on Main Street in Coventry, Rhode Island. Jurisdiction is
pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 45-24-69. For the reasons
explained below, this Court remands this matter to the Zoning
Board for further proceedings consistent with this Decision.
Eleni Fidas (Plaintiff or Fidas) operates a pizza restaurant
(d/b/a Silver Lake Pizza) at 1146 Main Street in Coventry
(Fidas property), which is adjacent to a pub operated by a
tenant of BC Property. The tenant, Bella's Sports Pub
(Bella's or Pub), operates an eating and drinking
establishment at the property owned by BC Property, which
filed an application with the Zoning Board seeking permission
to maintain a dumpster in the front of the Pub for use by its
tenant. This would require a variance from Coventry Zoning
Ordinance § 1207, which requires that "[a]ll
commercial, industrial and multi-family residential uses
shall provide trash and/or garbage collection [at] areas
located in the rear of the building[.]"
7, 2014, the Coventry Zoning Board held a duly noticed public
hearing. Mr. Richard Crowe (Crowe), the sole member of BC
Property, testified in favor of the variance, as did John
Brunero, counsel for the Applicant. Specifically, Crowe
testified that the proposed location is "the only
location" for a dumpster. Ex. A, Zoning Board Meeting
Minutes 4, May 7, 2014. Crowe further testified that the
building has been used as a restaurant or a bar "since
the 1700's." Id., at 5. In response to
questioning from Attorney John Brunero (Brunero), Crowe
responded in the affirmative when asked if there was "no
way to get the trash from the back to the front other than
leave it out there in bags[, ]" and employees of
Bella's "would physically have to walk the trash
through the building, through the patron's area and
kitchen area . . . . to bring it to the front, that's the
only way?" Id. Crowe testified that the
dumpster had, at the time of the hearing, been at its present
location in front of the building for two years. Id.
at 6. He acknowledged that for a short time, the dumpster was
behind the building, and regarding that time, he testified
that "[w]e tried but it was very difficult."
Brian LaPlante (LaPlante), who represents Plaintiff, offered
testimony and argument against the proposed variance.
Id. at 8. He argued that the "dumpster in its
current location can't be emptied unless it's rolled
into my client's property[, ]" and his "client
is similarly concerned about a neighbor using . . . [her]
property." Id. He further argued that
"[a]ny business asking you for relief is to realize
greater financial gain." Id. at 9. Addressing
whether granting the variance would "alter the general
character of the surrounding area[, ]" LaPlante told the
Board "[o]f course it will, this dumpster was never
there before." Id. He further stated that
denial of the variance would result in "just a mere
Board asked Brunero if the trash had ever been stored behind
the establishment, and he responded that it had been tried,
but "[t]he problem with the dumpster going to the back
of the building is in the winter trying to plow anything back
there is impossible." Id. at 10. Brunero
further stated that"[e]ven if we sat here tonight and
the fence [between Bella's and the Fidas property] was no
longer there[, ] it's almost impossible to get that
dumpster in and out in the winter." Id.
However, with respect to plow access, Crowe used the phrase
"very difficult, " whereas Brunero described the
difficulty with plow access as "almost impossible."
Id. at 6, 10.
Zoning Board met again on July 2, 2014. Board member John
D'Onofrio acknowledged that "[p]utting it right in
front of the building on Main Street doesn't look
good." Ex. B, Zoning Board Meeting Minutes 2, July 2,
2014. Finally, by a vote of 5-0, the Board ultimately
approved the requested variance in a written decision dated
July 2, 2014. Id. at 4. the Board added a
stipulation that Applicant must "[e]nclose dumpster
[where it is]  to make [it] aesthetically pleasing."
29, 2014, the Board issued a written decision approving the
Application for a variance. The decision held that the
dumpster could remain in front of the building, with the
stipulation that it "shall be enclosed with access
doors, so that the actual dumpster is out of view." Ex.
C, Coventry Zoning Board of Review Dimensional Variance
Decision 2, July 29, 2014.
filed her complaint and appeal on August 12, 2014. She
alleged that there was no legal or factual basis for the
decision of the Zoning Board, and the Zoning Board, in fact,
had not ...