A Rhode Island zoning law attorney answers the following RI land use and zoning law FAQS. These are very informative and useful law articles.
1) Do I need a building permit pursuant to Rhode Island Zoning Law to construct a small addition to my house or a deck around my above ground swimming pool?
Yes. Almost all construction at your home requires a building permit. Even the placement of a shed in your backyard necessitates a building permit.
2) My home is in a zoning residential zone. Are there any problems that I need to consider in planning an addition or an accessory structure?
Yes. All towns and cities in Rhode Island regulate construction through setback requirements and percent of coverage requirements. You need to determine if your proposed addition will violate any of these dimensional requirements. If it does, you will need to seek a dimensional variance from the Zoning Board of the town or city in which your land is located.
3) I have a single-family house located in a single-family zoning district in Rhode Island. My mother-in-law wants to move in with me. Can I add a second kitchen to my house so that she will have the ability to be independent?
Most cities and towns consider that the addition of a second kitchen creates a two-family house which is not permitted in a single-family district. Some cities and towns allow in-law apartments but have very specific rules as to their size and location. It is important that you and your RI Real Estate attorney examine the zoning ordinances of your city or town as to whether or not you can create an in-law apartment.
4) If I want to build a two-family in a single-family zone or build an office in a residential zone, what do I do?
Each city and town has a procedure for obtaining a use variance from the zoning Board of Review. An application has to be filed with the Zoning Officer for this variance. Frequently the planning staff will advise the Zoning Board as to whether the proposed construction conforms to the Comprehensive Plan of the city or town and as to whether in their opinion it will create a nuisance in the neighborhood. Use variances can be difficult to obtain and often it is wise to have expert testimony from a realtor or land use planner at the hearing.
5) I have extra land that I am not using on the side of my house. Can I sell this land to a builder?
Almost all cities and towns require that you obtain a subdivision of your land to divide it into two parcels. One will be for your existing house and the other will be for a buildable lot. In order to obtain a subdivision, you must apply to the Planning Board of your city or town. To do this, you will need to have a survey done of your property. It is wise to have a RI zoning attorney represent you as there are a number of issues that surface in any attempted lot split.
Rhode Island, like other states in the United States, has its own zoning regulations and building permit requirements that govern construction, additions, in-law apartments, and variances. Zoning regulations are typically established by local municipalities and can vary from one town or city to another within the state. Here is an overview of these topics in the context of Rhode Island:
- Building Permits: In Rhode Island, as in most places, you typically need a building permit to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, or demolish any building or structure. The exact requirements and procedures for obtaining a building permit may vary depending on the specific town or city where the property is located. Generally, you will need to submit detailed plans and pay a fee to the local building department. They will review your plans to ensure they comply with local building codes and zoning regulations.
- Additions: If you want to make additions to an existing structure, such as adding a new room, a porch, or a garage, you will usually need to obtain a building permit. The specifics of the permit process will depend on your local zoning regulations and building codes. It’s essential to check with your local building department to determine the requirements for your particular project.
- In-Law Apartments: In-law apartments, also known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), are additional living spaces within a single-family residence. These can be used for family members or rented out. Regulations regarding in-law apartments can vary by municipality. Some towns in Rhode Island may have specific rules governing the construction and use of ADUs. It’s important to contact your local zoning or planning department to find out the rules and requirements in your area.
- Variance: If you wish to undertake a project that doesn’t comply with the local zoning regulations, you may need to seek a variance. A variance is a request to deviate from the standard zoning rules due to unique circumstances or hardships. To obtain a variance, you typically need to apply to your local zoning board of appeals or a similar authority. The board will review your case and may grant a variance if they find that strict application of the zoning regulations would cause unnecessary hardship. Variance rules and processes can vary by municipality.
It’s important to consult with your local municipal planning or zoning department to get specific information on building permits, additions, in-law apartments, and variances in your area. They can provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information, as well as guidance on how to navigate the permitting and zoning processes for your particular project. Additionally, you may want to consult with a local architect or attorney with expertise in zoning and land use matters to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.
“Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) is a land use technique for developing diverse mixed-income communities by requiring each new residential development make a percentage of the new units affordable to targeted incomes. It often lets developers build more units through a “density bonus” along with other incentives to help the program operate better. IZ is used in cities across the country and states have made it part of their law. Montgomery County, MD was the first to implement IZ back in the 1970’s. Since then, IZ helped create over 11,000 units of affordable housing in the County.” Mayor Muriel Bowser