Filippi brothers’ appeal denied

By Zoning Board of Review
Thu, 09/12/2019 - 5:45pm

Local businessmen Blake and Paul Filippi were denied in their appeal of a notice of violation issued by the New Shoreham Building Official for erecting a makeshift parking lot on their property in Old Harbor.

The Zoning Board voted unanimously (5-0) to uphold the notice of violation issued by Building Official Marc Tillson on June 6. The motion was made by Chair Elizabeth Connor and seconded by Kate Butcher, at the board’s August 28 meeting.

Connor noted in her decision that the brothers did not possess a special use permit when they erected two parking lots on disputed land near the Harbormaster’s shack over the Memorial Day weekend.

Tillson told The Times that: “The decision is dated Sept. 4, 2019. The Filippi’s now have 20 days to appeal the decision to the Superior Court. If no appeal is filed, the town will proceed to enforce the Notice of Violation.”

In response to the decision, Blake Filippi issued the following statement: “It's a good thing we live in a country with the rule of law and an independent judicial system. While that process plays out, we look forward to continued work with the town to find a solution that respects our property rights and enables the town to achieve its goals, which must include continued commercial fishermen parking.”

Connor said her decision was based on the following findings of fact, in part:

(1) The violation is related to the triangular portion of Water Street, a public right of way, approximately 30-feet by 90-feet, that was chained off, and had a sign, which read: “Parking $5 an hour; $20 per day (pay at moped rental front desk) OHBS (Old Harbor Bike Shop).”

(2) The violations are cited as: (a) installation of a parking lot within the public right of way on Water Street, which has the capacity of holding five or more cars, without obtaining a special use permit, and (b) installation of a sign advertising parking without the required Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic District Commission.

(3) The evidence was uncontroverted that the respondents were controlling a defined area for private parking by the hour or day.

(4) The respondents’ position was presented by Blake Filippi primarily through cross-examination of the Building Official. Filippi urged the Board to find that the use is a lawful pre-existing non-conforming use.

(5) The evidence is related to long standing — still pending — litigation in Washington County Superior Court captioned, “Town of New Shoreham v. Estate of Paul Filippi, et al.”, dealing with ownership and control issues involving the triangle area. 

(6) Rhode Island law provides certain “guardrails” as to the extent to which a Zoning Board should have authority to effectively adjudicate property rights issues or declare existence of a lawful pre-existing non-conforming use.

(7) The property rights issues involving competing interests must be adjudicated in a court of equity — not by land use permitting authorities with limited jurisdiction defined by statutory and ordinance provisions. 

(8) Hence, our jurisdiction in this appeal is constrained beyond the issue of whether the Building Official reasonably determined that the use in question was in conflict with the permitting requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. 

The next Zoning Board of Review meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 5 p.m.