Judge again overturns Narragansett’s ban on more than 3 students in a house
Taft-Carter’s decision came in a lawsuit brought by Narragansett 2100, a group of homeowners in the city. They had sued various city officials, including members of the city council. Legally speaking, Taft-Carter granted the owners’ motion for summary judgment on one of the arguments they had made. Concretely, this means that the city can no longer apply this law because it is void. The city had already been prevented from doing so by an earlier ruling by Taft-Carter in the lawsuit, but that ruling is permanent unless the city appeals or the council attempts to re-pass it.
The city council had originally passed the law – which prohibits more than three students from living in a single non-owner occupied accommodation – in 2020. Prior to this, the council had sought advice from the planning council on the matter, because he has to do under state law. The planning board voted to recommend disapproving the law, but the city council passed it anyway.
But that was during the height of COVID-19, and the hearing on the proposal was held on a remote video platform. People raised their virtual hands, but didn’t get a chance to speak. The homeowners group sued, and Taft-Carter sided with them, saying the city failed to follow state law by not giving enough opportunity to talk about proposal.
The Council quickly tried again. In 2021, it passed an identical version of the same law. But this time, the council did not seek the advice of the Planning Council first. The group of owners again took legal action, arguing that the city council must first obtain the opinion of the planning council again before adopting it.
Taft-Carter again agreed with the owners. The city had argued that it had mostly complied with the law because although it had not done so in 2021, it had gone through the Planning Board before passing an identical version of the law in 2020.
Taft-Carter disagreed: The Planning Board must make its recommendations based on the needs of the city, and those needs change all the time. It wasn’t just a technical violation, Taft-Carter wrote.
Because she ruled in favor of the owners on the planning board issue, Taft-Carter did not address the issue of whether the law was invalid because, as the owners argued, it is incompatible with the overall plan of the city.
Housing in Narragansett, particularly but not solely student housing, is a major issue in this southern county town. Narragansett has seen the largest population decline in the state in the 2020 census, and locally some residents are worried about the future of the community with the proliferation of short term rentals and student housing.
Landlords, on the other hand, say the city has taken an overbearing approach to regulating rentals, making it inhospitable for all but those who can already afford to live there. And, they say, the vast majority of students or short-term renters are respectful of their neighbors.
The Narragansett 2100 litigation is one of the key elements of this dispute; the city had also weighed proposals to repress on short-term rentals with a proposal that would have been among the strictest regulations in the state.
On Tuesday, Narragansett voters re-elected three city council members and replaced two candidates who were no longer running. It’s unclear if the new council members will give the three-student law a third try, but it’s clear the owners would continue to challenge it if they did.
“Last year’s decision and this year’s decision were decided on procedural issues, but if passed again, we are confident that we will be successful on the merits as well,” said Joelle Rocha, attorney for Narragansett 2100, at the Boston Globe. “We are not leaving anytime soon. »
The question also ride to Providenceanother community with a large student population.