Lett v. Caromile

Decision Date17 June 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-50-A,85-50-A
Citation510 A.2d 958
PartiesDonald J. LETT et al. v. Paul CAROMILE et al. ppeal.
CourtRhode Island Supreme Court
OPINION

BEVILACQUA, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court sustaining the Bristol Platting Board of Review's affirmance of the Bristol Planning Board's approval of a proposed development by the defendant Portside Associates (developer). An appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court in a companion case (C.A. No. 82-2950) was also taken by Donald J. Lett and others against Portside Associates. These actions were consolidated for trial by order of the Superior Court. The following facts are not in dispute.

Portside Associates (Portside) is the owner in fee of a 16.8-acre parcel of real property located on Poppasquash Road in Bristol. Portside's development plan provides for the division of this parcel into ten lots upon which single-family dwellings would be constructed. This subdivision plan also includes the public dedication of a portion of Poppasquash Road. The plaintiffs, who are owners of realty in the Poppasquash Point area, possess certain easement rights over the parcel in question and assert that the purported unilateral dedication over their objections and without just compensation is unlawful.

Portside submitted its subdivision proposal to the Planning Board of the Town of Bristol, which approved the plan on April 29, 1982. The plaintiffs then appealed the decision to the Bristol Platting Board of Review seeking to have the entire subdivision plan stricken and the matter remanded to the planning board. On July 13, 1982, the board of review affirmed the decision of the planning board approving the subdivision plan. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Superior Court pursuant to G.L. 1956 (1980 Reenactment) § 45-23-20 contending, among other things, that the use and value of their property was and will continue to be adversely affected by the recording of the subdivision. They further contended that the dedication of Poppasquash Road to the public will adversely affect their easement rights in the property.

The trial justice found that the proposal to subdivide the land parcel into ten lots was in conformity with the Bristol zoning regulations 1 and therefore concluded that Portside had lawfully exercised its rights under the zoning code. He explained that in light of this conformity, the question of property value was not a proper concern of this court. The proper time to have raised this objection would have been when the property was being zoned rather than after the property had been purchased, plans developed, and expenditures made in accordance with what the law allows.

On the easement issue, the trial justice ruled that the record contains no evidence to indicate that plaintiffs' easement rights are exclusive. He stated that the record suggests that plaintiffs' rights to pass and repass over the road are nonexclusive. Because he found competent evidence in the record to support the board of review's finding that dedication of Poppasquash Road would not adversely affect the easement rights of plaintiffs, the trial justice affirmed the board of review's decision.

On appeal, this court addresses the following issues: (1) whether the trial justice properly affirmed the board's approval of the ten-lot subdivision of Portside's 16.8-acre land parcel and (2) whether the trial justice properly found that the proposed public dedication of a part of Poppasquash Road would not impair plaintiffs' easement rights as determined by the administrative boards.

I

WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT'S AFFIRMANCE OF THE BRISTOL PLANNING BOARD'S AND THE BRISTOL PLATTING BOARD OF REVIEW'S APPROVAL OF THE TEN-LOT SUBDIVISION OF PORTSIDE'S LAND PARCEL WAS PROPER.

Portside Associates presented to the Bristol Planning Board its plan to subdivide its land parcel into ten lots upon which single-family dwellings would be constructed. The property in question is subject to a minimum-lot-size requirement of 40,000 square feet. On April 29, 1982, the board approved the plan. On June 22 and June 29, 1982, the platting board of review conducted extensive hearings during which testimony was presented by and on behalf of opponents of the subdivision. Testimony was also presented concerning the possible effect of the subdivision on the value of area property. In its July 15, 1982 decision, the board of review affirmed the planning board's decision. The plaintiffs appealed to the Superior Court, alleging that the use and value of their property was and would continue to be adversely affected by the recording of the subdivision.

The trial justice held that the parcel division plan conformed with chapter 22 of the Bristol Town Code and that there was no evidence in the record to indicate nonconformity with the rules and regulations governing the planning board or platting board of review. G.L. 1956 (1980 Reenactment) chapter 23 of title 45. The trial justice stated that since the subdivision proposal conforms with Bristol zoning regulations, Portside is properly...

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