Superior Court to zoning board: Try again

Ann and Kenneth Morrill's home at 48 Laurel Lane. Ann and Kenneth Morrill's home at 48 Laurel Lane.

Ann and Kenneth Morrill's home at 48 Laurel Lane.

Ann and Kenneth Morrill’s home at 48 Laurel Lane.

The Rhode Island Superior Court has ruled that a 2011 zoning board decision allowing a Laurel Lane couple to build a garage on their property, be reheard.

In early 2011, 48 Laurel Lane residents Ann and Kenneth Morrill asked for variances which would allow them to build a large detached garage, 16 by 30 feet, on their property just up from the Kickemuit River. The Morrills sought zoning relief because the proposed garage exceeded thee town’s 10-foot setback and lot coverage requirements.

At a hearing held June 20, 2011 two abutters, including David Rotondo, spoke against the application. After the board unanimously approved the variances, Mr. Rotondo promptly appealed the decision to the Superior Court.

In a ruling issued Monday, June 17, Superior Court Magistrate Sarah Taft-Carter ruled that the board acted improperly in granting the variances, saying members failed to satisfy the standard of review necessary before making a decision, and did not make the required “findings of fact” necessary to make an informed decision, including whether the applicant will suffer a hardship if the request is not permitted. In his ruling, Justice Taft-Carter ruled that the board did not do that.

“Here, the record is void of any findings or conclusions,” she wrote, and for that reason the Superior Court cannot even rule if the application had merit. “The court will not … decide for itself what is proper in the circumstances if the zoning board fails to make required findings.”

Therefore, she wrote, the board must reconsider the application.

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