CLIENT SPOTLIGHT: Grillo's Pickles

If you haven't been to the Grillo's Pickles website, you should. There, you'll find the fantastic story of how this company began. We've copied part of it here to save you a click.

Grillo's Pickles began with a pickle cart, just a small wooden stand in downtown Boston, where Travis Grillo and his friends would sell two spears for one dollar. Travis would make the pickles by night using his family's 100-year old recipe - one he'd memorized from making pickles every summer as a kid. In the morning, Travis would bike to the Boston Common and set up the cart with his buddies. They'd hang out all day, urging people to try the simple Grillo family pickle. It was a small business but Travis worked hard for it. He made more pickles, biked more miles, and slept less hours than he ever had before.
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CLIENT SPOTLIGHT: Factory Five Racing

Factory Five Racing was founded in 1995. Over the years they have grown from a start-up business in a small garage to become the world's largest manufacturer of "build-it-yourself" component car kits. They employ a full-time crew of about 40 people, and are located in Wareham, Massachusetts (about an hour south of Boston). They make their products right here in the USA, in the heart of New England where American manufacturing was born.
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Fred and Danny Magnanimi grew up watching their father create beautiful, handcrafted jewelry in the family's Cranston, RI jewelry manufacturing business. When the boys grew up, Fred moved to New York and began working on Wall Street as an investment banker, while younger brother Danny, still enamored by the family business, stayed home. Increased competition from overseas businesses created significant challenges for the business, but Danny was confident he could find a way for the family business to evolve and thrive. This was his mission, this was his passion.
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        The Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance Conflict

        As Rhode Island experiences an uptick in new commercial development from its capital city to its many vacation destinations, once settled land use issues have become a new challenge. The Rhode Island legislature passed the Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act back in 1988 which established a system of statewide planning to ensure consistency and uniformity in municipal land use regulation. Under the Act, a municipality’s comprehensive plan became the primary regulatory document.

        The Act was amended in 2011 during slow economic times when major developments were scarce. It is only now, with the increase of major development projects in the state, that issues related to the 2011 Amendment have arisen. Although municipalities regularly update their zoning ordinances to meet current conditions, some of these new zoning amendments are either inconsistent, or may be interpreted as inconsistent, with that municipality’s comprehensive plan.

        In applying the new provisions of the 2011 Amendment, municipalities have taken differing positions when dealing with inconsistencies between its comprehensive plan and its zoning ordinance. Some municipalities continue to treat the comprehensive plan as the primary land use document while others have interpreted the 2011 Amendment as changing well-established Rhode Island law and now gives primacy to the zoning ordinance.

        The “confusion” related to the 2011 Amendment arises, in part, out of the elimination of the eighteen- month time requirement for bringing a zoning ordinance into compliance with the municipality’s comprehensive plan. The 2011 Amendment added to the confusion by including a provision that states that in instances of conflict, “the zoning ordinance in effect as of the time of the comprehensive plan adoption” controls until the “zoning ordinance is amended to achieve consistency with the comprehensive plan.” Troubles arise when a municipality takes no action to achieve consistency, or amends its zoning ordinance inconsistently with its comprehensive plan. This type of municipal action leads to the seemingly unanticipated result of undermining the Acts stated purpose of establishing a uniform system of statewide planning, creating confusion for developers and land owners over which requirements control.

        Importantly, the 2011 amendment to the Act also reiterated two well-established principles: (1) that “[e]ach municipality shall amend its zoning ordinance and map to conform to the comprehensive plan in accordance with the implementation program”; and (2) that “[i]n instances of uncertainty in the internal construction or application of any section of the zoning ordinance or map, the ordinance or map shall be construed in a manner that will further the implementation of, and not be contrary to, the goals and policies and applicable content of the adopted comprehensive plan.” It is this author’s opinion that the history of land use and zoning in Rhode Island, coupled with the two above principles, supports the continued primacy of a municipality’s comprehensive plan over its zoning ordinance.

        Litigation has ensued challenging certain developments that have obtained zoning and planning board approvals based on a determination by the municipality that the developments are in compliance with all zoning requirements, despite being in conflict with the comprehensive plan. The litigation raises the once settled issue of the primacy between a municipality’s zoning ordinance and its comprehensive plan. Hopefully, the Rhode Island Supreme Court will resolve this conflict in its upcoming session.

        So, how can a developer best protect itself when undertaking due diligence before committing to put shovels in the ground? Based on the status of Rhode Island land use law, particular attention must now be spent analyzing the interplay between the municipality’s comprehensive plan, the zoning ordinance, the subdivision regulations, the present and future land use maps, and applicable overlay districts. Developers must ascertain whether relevant land use maps have been updated to bring them into conformity with changes to either the zoning ordinance or the comprehensive plan. The applicable overlay districts must be determined and the municipality’s land use maps must be reviewed and compared. If the project is a benefit to the community, the municipality should be willing to take any necessary steps required to ensure that the competing land use requirements are properly satisfied.