Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Community Planning (MCP)


Community Planning and Area Development

First Advisor

John J. Kupa


This project assesses the suitability of state mandated exclusive agricultural zoning for Rhode Island. First, the state's previous attempts at agricultural preservation are discussed. The limitations of the acquisition and use value assessment approaches are emphasized. The problems of critical areas as an agricultural preservation tool are raised.

The project then develops criteria that an agricultural preservation policy in Rhode Island must meet . The policy chosen must preserve all the state's prime and unique agricultural land. Preservation action must come soon, or large portions of the state's remaining farmland will be lost. It is stressed that an agricultural preservation policy must conflict minimally with the state's housing needs and political tradition of local control of land use.

Various land management techniques are measured against these critieria. It is found that state controlled zoning; agricultural districts and Transfer of Development Rights are unsuitable for Rhode Island. Purchase of Development Rights have potential, but it appears that they will be inadequately funded. State mandated exclusive agricultural zoning does appear an alternative for Rhode Island.

Based on the British Columbian experience and a bill in California, the process by which state mandated exclusive agricultural zoning might be applied to Rhode Island is detailed. Tentative definitions for prime and unique agricultural land are formed, with interim controls for all farmland in the state recommended until the final definitions are reached.

Although non-farm development would not normally be permitted on the prime and unique lands, provisions are made for exceptions in certain cases. To mitigate the impact of use value assessment, the granting of state tax subsidies to the towns with prime and unique lands is proposed.

National and Rhode Island case law is reviewed to show that exclusive agricultural zoning would probably be upheld as a valid exercise of the police power. The problems of the technique are discussed with particular attention to its political feasibility and its impact upon farmowners. To aid farmers in the state, it is urged that Rhode Island develop a comprehensive agricultural policy. The project concludes by recommending that an exclusive agricultural zoning bill be introduced into the Rhode Island legislature where it would be subject to scrutiny and public debate.



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