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Duffy v. Milder

Supreme Court of Rhode Island
896 A.2d 27 (2006)


Facts

The Poncelet family owned a farm, where they rode and bred horses. The town in which the farm was located revised its zoning code in a way that would have restricted the Poncelets’ use of their property as a horse farm. However, the Poncelets were permitted to continue the horse farm as a prior nonconforming use. The Poncelets eventually sold the land, known as Lot 24 and Lot 28, to James and Paula Malm. The Malms intended to use the land for a condominium development. The Malms successfully petitioned the town to rezone the property in preparation for this development. The new zoning classification also prohibited horse farms. The condominium project was completed on Lot 28. The Malms then sold Lot 24 to Larry and Lisa Milder (defendants). The Milders were interested keeping horses on the property. The Milders began keeping horses on the property, along with a number of other animals. The town then began citing the Milders for zoning violations. The Milders filed a complaint in court, seeking a declaratory judgment that maintaining horses on Lot 24 constituted a lawful nonconforming user. The Milders’ neighbors, the Duffys (plaintiffs), were granted permission to intervene. The Duffys then moved for summary judgment, requesting the court to declare that the zoning ordinance prohibited the Milders from keeping horses on Lot 24. The Duffys argued that the use of the property as a horse farm was abandoned as a matter of law before the Milders purchased the land. The court ruled in favor of the Milders, holding that keeping horses on Lot 24 was a legal nonconforming and permitted use. The Duffys appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Flaherty, J.)

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