Economic Impact Review – Middletown, RI

In determining whether to approve or deny proposals for retail development, the Middletown Planning Board evaluates the project’s impact on traffic, municipal services, the environment, and the character of the community.

The town requires that developers submit detailed impact statements and pay a fee to cover the town’s cost of hiring consultants to review the impact statements and offer independent analyses. For shopping centers and other commercial development, the fee is $100 per 1,000 square feet of gross floor space.

In 2006, Middletown adopted a store size cap. The town now prohibits retail buildings with a footprint of 35,000 square feet or more (individual retail outlets may be larger if they span more than one floor). A weakness of the law is that it allows developers to apply for a special use permit to exceed the size cap.


16 Section 310 – Development Impact Review

The purpose of Development Impact Review is to provide for detailed analysis of certain land uses which, because of their scale or intensity of use, have the potential for significant impact on the health, safety or general welfare of Town residents, including negative effects on the environment, abutting property values, demand for Town services and infrastructure, and traffic safety.

The TRC shall inform the applicant at the time of initial review if a Development Impact Review is required.

A. Application. The provisions of this section shall apply to any use subject to DPR. However, the TRC or Planning Board, whichever is the reviewing body, may waive this requirement by majority vote and written decision, upon a finding that the impacts of the proposed use are too minimal to warrant a Development Impact Review.

B. Requirements. Applicants within the scope of this section shall comply with the following:

1. Impact Statement. The applicant shall submit to the Planning Board an impact statement, prepared with the assistance of qualified consultants, which shall evaluate the potential impact of the development upon:

(a)    Traffic and parking conditions on site and within the surrounding area;

(b)    Municipal utilities and services, including water supply, sewage disposal, storm drains, police, fire protection, emergency services, schools, and other Town services;

(c)    The physical and ecological characteristics of the site and surrounding land, including wetlands, floodplain, vegetation, wildlife habitat, and other environmental conditions;

(d)    The character of the community, including scenic, historic and archaeological conditions; scale, placement, lighting, parking, and use of open space.

C. Independent Analysis.The TRC or Planning Board, with the advice of the Planning Department, may select one or more consultants to prepare an analysis of the impact statement required by this section. Both the impact statement and the consultant analysis shall be considered by the TRC or Planning Board in its review of the application.

D. Payment for Impact Statement and Review. The cost of all studies and investigations reasonably necessary to prepare impact statements required under this Section shall be borne by the applicant. The cost of hiring a consultant(s) to review the impact statement shall be borne indirectly by the applicant through payment of a fee to the Town upon submission of the application, in addition to the filing fee, according to the following schedule:

1. For each application for an apartment, condominium, townhouse, or other multifamily dwelling in excess of two (2) proposed units, a fee of $100.00 per unit proposed. No fee shall be required for any proposed unit that meets the definition of “low and moderate income housing”.

2. For each application for a hotel, motel or inn, a fee of $150.00 per rental unit.

3. For each shopping center, retail, office, professional services, manufacturing or other commercial development, a fee of $100.00 per one thousand (1,000) square feet of gross floor space.

4. For each major subdivision of six (6) or more lots application a fee of $500.00 for each proposed new building lot. Any portion of the fees collected under this section that remain unused shall be refunded to the applicant upon expiration of the final appeal period.


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Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.