Victory in Case of First Impression: Zoning Restrictions and Short-term Rentals in RI

When the Town of Barrington (the “Town”) told the Rhode Island School of Design (“RISD”) that its use of certain property as a short-term rental violated the Town Zoning Ordinance, RISD turned to Hinckley Allen for help.

The Town applied the definition of “household” in the Zoning Ordinance to limit RISD’s use of the property for short term rental to renting only to those who are family members or no more than three unrelated persons. In addition, the Town prohibited anyone renting the RISD property from having “events” there, even though other residential properties in that zone could have “events” (e.g., backyard wedding or parties) on their properties.

RISD appealed to the Rhode Island Superior Court. In a 35-page decision, Justice McGuirl of the Rhode Island Superior Court reversed the Barrington Zoning Board and noted that this is a case of first impression in Rhode Island. She held that the Town’s interpretation of “household” in the Zoning Ordinance and its prohibition on events at the RISD property were both arbitrary and capricious as applied to short-term rentals and without a rational basis.

Hinckley Allen’s Litigation and Real Estate teams worked in tandem on this case. Zoning law is an ever-changing landscape, and our experienced teams are here to help.

 

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