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US (RI): Halted since 2021, Schartner's mall-sized greenhouse project could move forward again

The mammoth — and dormant — 25-acre greenhouse project off Route 2 could sprout to life again this year. Town Zoning Inspector Hal Morgan this week lifted his October 2021 cease-and-desist order for the project with the condition that the builders —the Schartner family and Rhode Island Grows LLC — now seek and gain approval from the town’s planning and zoning boards before any construction resumes. 

The builders moved ahead with the project in 2021 without those approvals, arguing because the project was a greenhouse (granted, the size of the Warwick Mall), it enjoyed certain local and state agricultural protections, among them exemption from Exeter’s zoning review – at least in its initial phase of construction.  

But last August, a Superior Court judge shot down that argument ruling that the greenhouse is subject to the zoning code “so long as it constitutes a structure.”  

Among the stipulations set forth in the conditional lifting of the cease-and-desist order, the builders will have to apply to officially merge ownership of the three pieces of property that the greenhouse sits on and also seek a variance from the Zoning Board for the project’s size. 

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