EXETER – Oscar-nominated actor James Woods, known for his Family Guy episodes and ultra-conservative political views, is taking on a new cause: he’s opposing a neighbor’s attempt to build a house on the edge of Lake Boone.
Woods is a native Rhode Islander who graduated from Pilgrim High School in Warwick. His family has owned property in Boone Lake, not far from the Arcadia Management Area, for decades.
The 75-year-old actor sued the Exeter Zoning Board in state Supreme Court for approving a variance that would have allowed his neighbor, Harry Hawker III, to build a two-bedroom home on the undeveloped waterfront.
The site served as the Hawker family’s access point to the scenic lake and features a dock and fire pit.
In his petition, Woods argues that the board violated local zoning regulations by granting the variance and that Hawker failed to show that the proposed project would not change the character of the lakefront community. Woods also argues that Hawker has not proven that there is no other “reasonable alternative” use for the 14 acres at 0 West Shore Drive, which adjoins Woods’ family property.
In asking the court to reverse the zoning approval, Woods blames the zoning board for failing to consider the project’s impact on surrounding property values.
His attorney, Timothy J. Robenheimer did not return a phone call seeking comment.
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In response, the city said Hocker initially approved a size variance for a two-bedroom home in 2011, but rescinded the approval. The property is a pre-existing non-conforming lot that was created before the city adopted the 2-acre minimum lot size in the residential zone.
Hawker resubmitted the application for the same plans this year, and the board held public hearings on April 14, May 12, June 6 and June 15. The board continued the matter twice to allow the measurements to be adjusted, and once more when Robenheimer got COVID, according to court documents.
The board approved the project on June 15, noting that it fits with neighboring properties and that Hawker sought to reduce the amount of easement required by centering the house on the property. In granting the relief to Hawker, the board observed that the plans fit in with the surrounding properties and were “modest” at 950 square feet.
In opposition to Woods, the board seeks to uphold its approval and dismiss Woods’ complaint, arguing that the board’s decision was substantiated by substantial evidence and was based on the correct legal standards.
The board correctly determined that Hawker’s hardship was due to the unique characteristics of the lot, particularly its small size, Stephen J. wrote for the board. Sipole.
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“The fact that the neighborhood surrounding Boone Lake consists of many similar, small lots – in addition to the fact that single-family homes are permitted uses by right – was sufficient to satisfy the … criteria that “the requested variance will not change.” the general character of the surroundings'”, the board said.
The board rejected Woods’ arguments that Hawker was required to provide evidence that the proposal would not change the environment. Nor was the board required to consider the potential impact on neighboring property values, Cipole wrote.
“It is clear that the board cannot deny Mr. Hawker’s application based on claims they did not make up. [Mr. Woods]”, the board said.
Hawker, through Cipole, declined to comment on the suit.
Woods is an Emmy and Golden Globe winner who was nominated for two Oscars in the 1990s, first for Oliver Stone’s El Salvador and Rob Reiner’s Mississippi Ghost.