Title 45
Towns and Cities

Chapter 53
Low and Moderate Income Housing

R.I. Gen. Laws § 45-53-5.1

§ 45-53-5.1. Appeals — Judicial review. [Effective January 1, 2024.]

(a) Effective January 1, 2024, as a replacement to § 45-53-5. A decision of a local review board may be appealed by the applicant or an aggrieved party, as defined by § 45-24-31, to the superior court for the county in which the property is situated. The appeal shall be taken within twenty (20) days after the date of the recording and posting of the decision by the local review board, by filing with the superior court a complaint that contains a statement of the prior proceedings and the reasons upon which the appeal is based. The complaint shall name the local review board as the appellee and serve the local review board with the appeal within twenty (20) days of filing of the appeal. If an aggrieved party who or that is not the applicant files an appeal, the original applicant shall be named as a party and served in the same manner as the local review board.

(b) The local review board shall not be required to answer the complaint, but it shall submit the complete local review board record to superior court within thirty (30) days of receiving service of the complaint. Should the local review board fail to file the record within thirty (30) days, the applicant may move for default.

(c) The appeal shall be expedited and given priority on the court calendar as soon as proof of service of the complaint on the local review board is filed. The appeal shall be decided as soon as possible by the superior court, without delay.

(d) The review shall be conducted by the superior court without a jury. The court shall consider the record of the hearing before the local review board and, if it appears to the court that additional evidence is necessary for the proper disposition of the matter, it may allow any party to the appeal to present that evidence in open court, which evidence, along with the record, constitutes the record upon which the determination of the court is made.

(e) The superior court shall review the appeal under the following standards:

(1) Whether the decision was arbitrary and capricious or clearly erroneous in light of considerations regarding:

(i) The consistency of the decision to deny or condition the permit with the approved affordable housing plan;

(ii) The extent to which the community meets or plans to meet housing needs, as defined in an affordable housing plan, including, but not limited to, the ten percent (10%) goal for existing low- and moderate-income housing units as a proportion of year-round housing;

(iii) The consideration of environmental protection;

(iv) The state’s need for low- and moderate-income housing;

(v) The need to protect the health and safety of the occupants of the proposed housing or the residents of the city or town;

(vi) The need to promote better site and building design in relation to the surroundings or to preserve open space; and

(vii) Whether the reasons for denial, local zoning or land use ordinances, requirements and regulations are applied as equally as possible to both subsidized and unsubsidized housing.

(f) If the appeal is by an applicant for a decision approving an application with conditions, the superior court shall, in addition to reviewing the standards and considerations set forth in subsection (e) of this section, determine whether such conditions and requirements imposed make the construction or operation of the housing infeasible.

(g) The court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the local review board as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. The court may affirm the decision of the local review board or remand the case for further proceedings, or may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because of findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions that were arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.

(h) An aggrieved party may, within twenty (20) days from the date of entry of the judgment of superior court, petition the supreme court of the state of Rhode Island for a writ of certiorari to review any questions of law involved. The petition for a writ of certiorari shall set forth the errors claimed. Upon the filing of such a petition with the clerk of the supreme court, the supreme court may, if it sees fit, issue its writ of certiorari to the superior court to certify to the supreme court the record of the record under review, or so much thereof as was submitted to the superior court by the parties, together with any additional record of the proceedings in the superior court.

(i) Effective January 1, 2024, all matters pending before the state housing appeals board shall be transferred to superior court for the county in which the property is situated by the applicant filing a complaint in superior court and providing a copy of the complaint to the attorney representing the local review board within ten (10) days of filing. An applicant with an appeal pending before the state housing appeals board shall have until March 1, 2024, to file the complaint transferring the matter to superior court for the county in which the property is situated. The parties shall be required to file the entire record before the state housing appeals board with superior court within forty-five (45) days of the filing of the complaint.

(j) Effective January 1, 2024, this section shall replace the provisions of § 45-53-5 and any reference in the general laws to § 45-53-5 shall mean § 45-53-5.1.

History of Section.
P.L. 2023, ch. 312, § 2, effective January 1, 2024; P.L. 2023, ch. 313, § 2, effective January 1, 2024.