2011 -- S 0306
A N A C T
RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES - ZONING ORDINANCES
Date Introduced: February 16, 2011
It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
SECTION 1. Section 45-24-31 of the General Laws in Chapter 45-24 entitled "Zoning
Ordinances" is hereby amended to read as follows:
45-24-31. Definitions. -- Where words or terms used in this chapter are defined in section
45-22.2-4, they have the meanings stated in that section. In addition, the following words have
the following meanings. Additional words and phrases may be used in developing local
ordinances under this chapter; however, the words and phrases defined in this section are
controlling in all local ordinances created under this chapter:
(1) Abutter. - One whose property abuts, that is, adjoins at a border, boundary, or point
with no intervening land.
(2) Accessory Dwelling Unit. - A dwelling unit: (i) rented to and occupied either by one
or more members of the family of the occupant or occupants of the principal residence; or (ii)
reserved for rental occupancy by a person or a family where the principal residence is owner
occupied, and which meets the following provisions:
(A) In zoning districts that allow residential uses, no more than one accessory dwelling
unit may be an accessory to a single-family dwelling.
(B) An accessory dwelling unit shall include separate cooking and sanitary facilities,
with its own legal means of ingress and egress and is a complete, separate dwelling unit. The
accessory dwelling unit shall be within or attached to the principal dwelling unit structure or
within an existing structure, such as a garage or barn, and designed so that the appearance of the
principal structure remains that of a one-family residence.
(3) Accessory Use. - A use of land or of a building, or portion thereof, customarily
incidental and subordinate to the principal use of the land or building. An accessory use may be
restricted to the same lot as the principal use. An accessory use shall not be permitted without the
principal use to which it is related.
(4) Aggrieved Party. - An aggrieved party, for purposes of this chapter, shall be:
(i) Any person or persons or entity or entities who can demonstrate that their property
will be injured by a decision of any officer or agency responsible for administering the zoning
ordinance of a city or town; or
(ii) Anyone requiring notice pursuant to this chapter.
(5) Agricultural Land. - "Agricultural land", as defined in section 45-22.2-4.
(6) Airport Hazard Area. - "Airport hazard area", as defined in section 1-3-2.
(7) Applicant. - An owner or authorized agent of the owner submitting an application or
appealing an action of any official, board, or agency.
(8) Application. - The completed form or forms and all accompanying documents,
exhibits, and fees required of an applicant by an approving authority for development review,
approval, or permitting purposes.
(9) Buffer. - Land which is maintained in either a natural or landscaped state, and is used
to screen and/or mitigate the impacts of development on surrounding areas, properties, or rights-
(10) Building. - Any structure used or intended for supporting or sheltering any use or
(11) Building Envelope. - The three-dimensional space within which a structure is
permitted to be built on a lot and which is defined by regulations governing building setbacks,
maximum height, and bulk; by other regulations; and/or by any combination thereof.
(12) Building Height. - The vertical distance from grade, as determined by the
municipality, to the top of the highest point of the roof or structure. The distance may exclude
spires, chimneys, flag poles, and the like.
(13) Cluster. - A site planning technique that concentrates buildings in specific areas on
the site to allow the remaining land to be used for recreation, common open space, and/or
preservation of environmentally, historically, culturally, or other sensitive features and/or
structures. The techniques used to concentrate buildings shall be specified in the ordinance and
may include, but are not limited to, reduction in lot areas, setback requirements, and/or bulk
requirements, with the resultant open land being devoted by deed restrictions for one or more
uses. Under cluster development there is no increase in the number of lots that would be
permitted under conventional development except where ordinance provisions include incentive
bonuses for certain types or conditions of development.
(14) Common Ownership. - Either:
(i) Ownership by one or more individuals or entities in any form of ownership of two (2)
or more contiguous lots; or
(ii) Ownership by any association (ownership may also include a municipality) of one or
more lots under specific development techniques.
(15) Community Residence. - A home or residential facility where children and/or adults
reside in a family setting and may or may not receive supervised care. This does not include
halfway houses or substance abuse treatment facilities. This does include, but is not limited, to the
(i) Whenever six (6) or fewer children or adults with retardation reside in any type of
residence in the community, as licensed by the state pursuant to chapter 24 of title 40.1. All
requirements pertaining to local zoning are waived for these community residences;
(ii) A group home providing care or supervision, or both, to not more than eight (8)
persons with disabilities, and licensed by the state pursuant to chapter 24 of title 40.1;
(iii) A residence for children providing care or supervision, or both, to not more than
eight (8) children including those of the care giver and licensed by the state pursuant to chapter
72.1 of title 42;
(iv) A community transitional residence providing care or assistance, or both, to no more
than six (6) unrelated persons or no more than three (3) families, not to exceed a total of eight (8)
persons, requiring temporary financial assistance, and/or to persons who are victims of crimes,
abuse, or neglect, and who are expected to reside in that residence not less than sixty (60) days
nor more than two (2) years. Residents will have access to and use of all common areas, including
eating areas and living rooms, and will receive appropriate social services for the purpose of
fostering independence, self-sufficiency, and eventual transition to a permanent living situation.
(16) Comprehensive Plan. - The comprehensive plan adopted and approved pursuant to
chapter 22.2 of this title and to which any zoning adopted pursuant to this chapter shall be in
(17) Day Care --
(18) Day Care -- Family Day Care Home. - Any home other than the individual's home
in which day care in lieu of parental care or supervision is offered at the same time to six (6) or
less individuals who are not relatives of the care giver, but may not contain more than a total of
eight (8) individuals receiving day care.
(19) Density, Residential. - The number of dwelling units per unit of land.
(20) Development. - The construction, reconstruction, conversion, structural alteration,
relocation, or enlargement of any structure; any mining, excavation, landfill or land disturbance;
or any change in use, or alteration or extension of the use, of land.
(21) Development Plan Review. - The process whereby authorized local officials review
the site plans, maps, and other documentation of a development to determine the compliance with
the stated purposes and standards of the ordinance.
(22) District. - See "zoning use district".
(23) Drainage System. - A system for the removal of water from land by drains, grading,
or other appropriate means. These techniques may include runoff controls to minimize erosion
and sedimentation during and after construction or development, the means for preserving surface
and groundwaters, and the prevention and/or alleviation of flooding.
(24) Dwelling Unit. - A structure or portion of a structure providing complete,
independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living,
sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation, and containing a separate means of ingress and egress.
(25) Extractive Industry. - The extraction of minerals, including: solids, such as coal and
ores; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gases. The term also includes
quarrying; well operation; milling, such as crushing, screening, washing, and flotation; and other
preparation customarily done at the extraction site or as a part of the extractive activity.
(26) Family. - A person or persons related by blood, marriage, or other legal means. See
(27) Floating Zone. - An unmapped zoning district adopted within the ordinance which
is established on the zoning map only when an application for development, meeting the zone
requirements, is approved.
(28) Floodplains, or Flood Hazard Area. - As defined in section 45-22.2-4.
(29) Groundwater. - "Groundwater" and associated terms, as defined in section 46-13.1-3.
(30) Halfway House. - A residential facility for adults or children who have been
institutionalized for criminal conduct and who require a group setting to facilitate the transition to
a functional member of society.
(31) Hardship. - See section 45-24-41.
(32) Historic District, or Historic Site. - As defined in section 45-22.2-4.
(33) Home Occupation. - Any activity customarily carried out for gain by a resident,
conducted as an accessory use in the resident's dwelling unit.
(34) Household. - One or more persons living together in a single dwelling unit, with
common access to, and common use of, all living and eating areas and all areas and facilities for
the preparation and storage of food within the dwelling unit. The term "household unit" is
synonymous with the term "dwelling unit" for determining the number of units allowed within
any structure on any lot in a zoning district. An individual household shall consist of any one of
(i) A family, which may also include servants and employees living with the family; or
(ii) A person or group of unrelated persons living together. The maximum number may
be set by local ordinance, but this maximum shall not be less than three (3).
(35) Incentive Zoning. - The process whereby the local authority may grant additional
development capacity in exchange for the developer's provision of a public benefit or amenity as
specified in local ordinances.
(36) Infrastructure. - Facilities and services needed to sustain residential, commercial,
industrial, institutional, and other activities.
(37) Land Development Project. - A project in which one or more lots, tracts, or parcels
of land are to be developed or redeveloped as a coordinated site for a complex of uses, units, or
structures, including, but not limited to, planned development and/or cluster development for
residential, commercial, institutional, recreational, open space, and/or mixed uses as may be
provided for in the zoning ordinance.
(i) The basic development unit for determination of lot area, depth, and other
dimensional regulations; or
(ii) A parcel of land whose boundaries have been established by some legal instrument
such as a recorded deed or recorded map and which is recognized as a separate legal entity for
purposes of transfer of title.
of-way, usually reported in acres or square feet.
buildings and accessory buildings.
lots where the front and rear lot lines are not parallel, the lot depth is an average of the depth.
specify how noncontiguous frontage will be considered with regard to minimum frontage
or from a public or private street or any other public or private space and shall include:
(i) Front: the lot line separating a lot from a street right-of-way. A zoning ordinance shall
specify the method to be used to determine the front lot line on lots fronting on more than one
street, for example, corner and through lots;
(ii) Rear: the lot line opposite and most distant from the front lot line, or in the case of
triangular or otherwise irregularly shaped lots, an assumed line at least ten feet (10') in length
entirely within the lot, parallel to and at a maximum distance from the front lot line; and
(iii) Side: any lot line other than a front or rear lot line. On a corner lot, a side lot line
may be a street lot line, depending on requirements of the local zoning ordinance.
(44) Lot, Through. - A lot which fronts upon two (2) parallel streets, or which fronts
upon two (2) streets which do not intersect at the boundaries of the lot.
right angles to its depth along a straight line parallel to the front lot line at the minimum front
(46) Mere Inconvenience. - See section 45-24-41.
(47) Mixed Use. - A mixture of land uses within a single development, building, or tract.
(48) Modification. - Permission granted and administered by the zoning enforcement
officer of the city or town, and pursuant to the provisions of this chapter to grant a dimensional
variance other than lot area requirements from the zoning ordinance to a limited degree as
determined by the zoning ordinance of the city or town, but not to exceed twenty-five percent
(25%) of each of the applicable dimensional requirements.
(49) Nonconformance. - A building, structure, or parcel of land, or use thereof, lawfully
existing at the time of the adoption or amendment of a zoning ordinance and not in conformity
with the provisions of that ordinance or amendment. Nonconformance is of only two (2) types:
(i) Nonconforming by use: a lawfully established use of land, building, or structure
which is not a permitted use in that zoning district. A building or structure containing more
dwelling units than are permitted by the use regulations of a zoning ordinance is nonconformity
by use; or
(ii) Nonconforming by dimension: a building, structure, or parcel of land not in
compliance with the dimensional regulations of the zoning ordinance. Dimensional regulations
include all regulations of the zoning ordinance, other than those pertaining to the permitted uses.
A building or structure containing more dwelling units than are permitted by the use regulations
of a zoning ordinance is nonconforming by use; a building or structure containing a permitted
number of dwelling units by the use regulations of the zoning ordinance, but not meeting the lot
area per dwelling unit regulations, is nonconforming by dimension.
(50) Overlay District. - A district established in a zoning ordinance that is superimposed
on one or more districts or parts of districts
that imposes specified requirements in addition to , but not less, than those otherwise applicable for
the underlying zone. The standards
requirements associated with an overlay district may be more or less restrictive than those in the
underlying districts consistent with other applicable state and federal laws.
(51) Performance Standards. - A set of criteria or limits relating to elements which a
particular use or process must either meet or may not exceed.
(52) Permitted Use. - A use by right which is specifically authorized in a particular
(53) Planned Development. - A "land development project", as defined in section 45-24-
31(37), and developed according to plan as a single entity and containing one or more structures
and/or uses with appurtenant common areas.
(54) Preapplication Conference. - A review meeting of a proposed development held
between applicants and reviewing agencies as permitted by law and municipal ordinance, before
formal submission of an application for a permit or for development approval.
(55) Setback Line or Lines. - A line or lines parallel to a lot line at the minimum distance
of the required setback for the zoning district in which the lot is located that establishes the area
within which the principal structure must be erected or placed.
(56) Site Plan. - The development plan for one or more lots on which is shown the
existing and/or the proposed conditions of the lot.
(57) Special Use. - A regulated use which is permitted pursuant to the special-use permit
issued by the authorized governmental entity, pursuant to section 45-24-42. Formerly referred to
as a special exception.
(58) Structure. - A combination of materials to form a construction for use, occupancy,
or ornamentation, whether installed on, above, or below, the surface of land or water.
amendment of a zoning ordinance and not in conformance with the dimensional and/or area
provisions of that ordinance.
(60) Use. - The purpose or activity for which land or buildings are designed, arranged, or
intended, or for which land or buildings are occupied or maintained.
(61) Variance. - Permission to depart from the literal requirements of a zoning ordinance.
An authorization for the construction or maintenance of a building or structure, or for the
establishment or maintenance of a use of land, which is prohibited by a zoning ordinance. There
are only two (2) categories of variance, a use variance or a dimensional variance.
(i) Use Variance. - Permission to depart from the use requirements of a zoning ordinance
where the applicant for the requested variance has shown by evidence upon the record that the
subject land or structure cannot yield any beneficial use if it is to conform to the provisions of the
(ii) Dimensional Variance. - Permission to depart from the dimensional requirements of
a zoning ordinance, where the applicant for the requested relief has shown, by evidence upon the
record, that there is no other reasonable alternative way to enjoy a legally permitted beneficial use
of the subject property unless granted the requested relief from the dimensional regulations.
However, the fact that a use may be more profitable or that a structure may be more valuable after
the relief is granted are not grounds for relief.
(62) Waters. - As defined in section 46-12-1(23).
(63) Wetland, Coastal. - As defined in section 45-22.2-4.
(64) Wetland, Freshwater. - As defined in section 2-1-20.
(65) Zoning Certificate. - A document signed by the zoning enforcement officer, as
required in the zoning ordinance, which acknowledges that a use, structure, building, or lot either
complies with or is legally nonconforming to the provisions of the municipal zoning ordinance or
is an authorized variance or modification therefrom.
(66) Zoning Map. - The map or maps which are a part of the zoning ordinance and which
delineate the boundaries of all mapped zoning districts within the physical boundary of the city or
(67) Zoning Ordinance. - An ordinance enacted by the legislative body of the city or
town pursuant to this chapter and in the manner providing for the adoption of ordinances in the
city or town's legislative or home rule charter, if any, which establish regulations and standards
relating to the nature and extent of uses of land and structures, which is consistent with the
comprehensive plan of the city or town as defined in chapter 22.2 of this title, which includes a
zoning map, and which complies with the provisions of this chapter.
(68) Zoning Use District. - The basic unit in zoning, either mapped or unmapped, to
which a uniform set of regulations applies, or a uniform set of regulations for a specified use.
Zoning use districts include, but are not limited to: agricultural, commercial, industrial,
institutional, open space, and residential. Each district may include sub-districts. Districts may be
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.