East Greenwich Paying Out $1.7 Million in Fire District Fee Scheme “Big Win,” Says Law Firm

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


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EG pays $1.7 million to local businesses, homeowners for fire district fee scheme.

The Town of East Greenwich agreed to pay back $1.7 million in impact fees paid to the East Greenwich Fire Department to a group of local businesses and homeowners.

The businesses and homeowners were represented by Attorney Joelle Rocha, who filed a class action lawsuit against the town in January of 2017.

The settlement comes after Rocha,  a partner at the firm of Kelly, Souza, Rocha, and Parmenter, won a case in the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 2016, which invalidated the actions of the East Greenwich Fire District (“EGFD”) in assessing, imposing and collecting impact fees for new construction.

"This is another big win for this firm against the over-taxing and regulation of the real estate development industry in Rhode Island," said Michael Kelly. "The case was hard fought since 2013 -- we went to the Supreme Court on that case and won, even having had Superior court rule against us. This is a big victory for real estate owners and particularly commercial developers as a result of this illegal action and fees being thrown out."

“This is a case where developers, local businesses, and new homeowners were charged illegal and unauthorized fees for new construction, including some fees which were in excess of $100,000. Kelly, Souza, Rocha & Parmenter prides itself on protecting the interest of businesses, property owners and developers throughout the State of Rhode Island to make sure they continue to thrive. I was honored to represent these 89 fee payers and am very much looking forward to returning a substantial and unprecedented fee award to each of them as a result of the settlement we achieved,” said Rocha.

The Case

In its 2016 Decision, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Superior Court, directed judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs, and found that EGFD failed to follow the formalities required for the imposition of an impact fee ordinance.

In January of 2017, Rocha filed a class action lawsuit to recover the remainder of the fees.

In March of 2018, the parties participated in a mediation session with Retired Former Chief Justice Frank Williams, reaching a settlement, subject to court approval.

On June 4, 2018, the court approved a settlement of $1,700,000. Individual class members will be refunded between $740.70 to $291,022.18 each, a recovery of 85.6% of the fees that were originally paid to the EGFD.

Class members are expected to receive compensation by mid-July of 2018.


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