Today, Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi will have the R.I. House of Representatives vote on House Bill 6059A. Specifically, House Bill 6059A rewrites the state’s zoning law by making it easier for zoning variances, including those unrelated to housing, to be granted, and prohibits local comprehensive plans from being used to deny special use permits. Special use permits can be used to build various commercial projects including solar farms.
In the past, Shekarchi’s clients have had their requests for special use permits denied by planning and zoning boards because their commercial projects were inconsistent with local comprehensive plans. In Warwick, a self-storage project represented by Shekarchi ran into legal troubles after local officials determined that a special use permit should not be granted because it was inconsistent with the local comprehensive plan. Also, in 2020, the Coventry Planning Board relied on its local comprehensive plan to deny a request by Revity, a former Shekarchi client, for a special use permit to build a solar farm.
R.I. Republican Party Chairman Joe Powers has the following comments:
“The House has given the power to a land use lawyer, Shekarchi, to rewrite the state’s zoning laws, and he is using that power to rewrite these laws to benefit his clients-past, present and future. Shekarchi has used the cost of housing to justify his bills. But, House Bill 6059A is an example of how he is doing more than just encouraging housing.
The bill makes it easier to grant zoning variances but harder to deny special use permits. This bill does more than impact housing projects. Commercial developers, including solar farm developers, will take advantage of these zoning law changes to cash in.
No wonder Shekarchi decided not to give up his law practice to run for Congress. There will be a lot of money for him and his clients to make if this bill becomes law.”