rhode island
Population: 990,000
Counties: 5
Governor Lincoln C. Almond (R)

Key Laws/Court Decisions

Click here for the amount of protected land in Rhode Island, and click here to review Rhode Island's federal transportation spending.
Source:  Pew Center on the States & Changing Direction:  Federal Transportation Spending in the 1990s. Surface Transportation Policy Project

For an overview of Rhode Island planning and zoning statutes, see a summary provided by the American Planning Association.

Rhode Island Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Act (R.I. General Laws 45-22.1, 1988). The law requires every city and town to adopt a local comprehensive master plan. Each local comprehensive plan must contain nine elements:

  • Goals and policies
  • Land use (with a map)
  • Housing (including affordable housing)
  • Economic development
  • Natural and cultural resources
  • Services and facilities
  • Open space and recreation
  • Circulation
  • Implementation
  • Communities may add other elements, such as harbor management plans for coastal towns.
State government is given the authority to review the local plan and may reject plans which do not meet the requirements of the Act. State officials check for compliance with the statute and with the State Guide Plan, a collection of state goals and policies. (See below). If a plan is turned down, local officials may request a review by the Comprehensive Plan Appeals Board. 

Following adoption for the plan, the municipality is required to bring its zoning ordinance into conformance with the plan. This provision, which is not included in some other state growth management laws, is intended to provide teeth to the approved plans. In addition, the approved plan must be consulted for all state projects. The state planning council may approve a project that conflicts with a plan, but only after a public hearing, and only after finding that the project satisfies four strict criteria contained in the state planning act. 

The Statewide Planning Program: The State Guide Plan
The comprehensive statewide guide is comprised of plans dealing with state planning issue related to: land use, physical development, environmental concerns, economic development and preservation. Contact: Statewide Planning Program One Capitol Hill, Providence, RI 02908-5870, Phone 401-222-1220 Fax 401-222-2083; Web link http://www.athena.state.ri.us/planning/ 

99 -- S 0356 and H. 5789A The Urban Investment Tax Credit Act of 1999. Introduced in the Senate by Rhoda Perry (D-Prov.) and in the House by Paul Moura (D-Prov.), the purpose of the urban investment tax credit is to stimulate investment in urban areas for both homeownership and improvement of rental and commercial property. This act would create the Urban Investment Tax Credit Act of 1999. This act would take effect on July 1, 1999. For the status of S. 0356 see http://www.state.ri.us/BILLS/99-0356.HTM

H. 99-5452An Act Relating to the Valuation of Farm, Forest and Open Space. This Act would establish the Rhode Island Farm, Forest, and Open Space Land Value. Subcommittee to establish procedures for the current assessment of land on the basis of current use for farm, forest and open space lands in order to promote a more uniform valuing. It provides for the make-up of the committee including but not limited to length of terms. Contact: http://www.state.ri.us/billtext/99H5452.htm

Town of East Greenwich v. Narragansett Bay Electric Co.
This Rhode Island Supreme Court decision in 1974 said that community zoning ordinances must be consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan. 

Grow Smart Rhode Island
Grow Smart Rhode Islandís mission is to bring together diverse interests to protect and improve Rhode Islandís quality of life, economic vitality, and environmental health and the unique physical character created by the stateís historic cities, towns, and villages and by its farms, forests and open spaces. This will be achieved by promoting business and residential growth in urban and town centers and advancing open-land conservation and the preservation of rural character. Contact: Executive Director, Scott Wolf; 345 South Main Street, Providence, RI 02903; Phone: (401) 273-5711; Fax: (401) 331-1659

Save The Bay
The mission of Save The Bay is to ensure that the environmental quality of Narragansett Bay and its watershed is restored and protected from the harmful effects of human activity. Save The Bay seeks carefully planned use of the Bay and its watershed to allow the natural system to function normally and healthfully, both now and for the future. Contact: Save The Bay, 434 Smith St., Providence, RI 02908; Phone: (401) 272-3540; Fax: (401) 273-7153

"Taking the Long View" by William J. Donovan, 6/2/99, Providence Journal.

"Rhode Island Gets it Right: The little state with a big planning program," by Stuart Meck, AICP. Planning, November 1997. This insightful article discusses the pluses and minuses of Rhode Islandís growth management act. Please contact the American Planning Association at (312) 431-9100 for a reprint of the article.