Thursday, October 22, 2020        


Building & Zoning Official

Christopher McWhite, Building & Zoning Official

Christopher McWhite, CBO, HCO
Building and Zoning Official

FUNCTION:  The Building & Zoning Department is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the State of Rhode Island Building Codes and Minimum Housing Codes, the Town of Smithfield Zoning Ordinances, various sections of the Town Code, Health Ordinance, the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with several State regulations. The office responds to complaints, corrects violations, processes permit applications and performs plan review, as well as numerous other related functions.

All 2019 ICC CODES as amended for Rhode Island are in effect as of August 1, 2019.
A link to the R.I. Amendments can be found HERE


The Town of Smithfield has gone live with online E-Permitting at

This online system will allow contractors and homeowners to apply for the following permits from any online computer or device.

– Building Permit
– Demolition Permit
– Electrical Permit
– Mechanical Permit
– Moving Permit
– Plumbing Permit
– Temporary Outside Dining

This system will help to streamline the permitting process and allow a better means of communications between the Applicant, Clerk, Inspector, Building Official, and Fire Marshal.

You will be able to log in or receive email notifications and check the flow status of your application. and completed inspection.

Paper applications for the above permits will no longer be accepted. 

Downloadable Forms & Documents (.pdf)
Building Forms   Zoning Forms

All documents are also available at the Building and Zoning Office*.  Applications, permits, and certificates may require signature(s) from the Building / Zoning Official(s).

* Town Hall is currently closed to the public due to mandated COVID-19 closures, however there is a secure drop box at the front of Town Hall. Documents and other correspondence can be placed there and must be labeled Building & Zoning Department and marked Attention with the intended recipients name or job title. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Building Questions – Zoning Questions

Building Questions 

When are permits required?
Permits must be obtained before constructing, enlarging, altering, repairing, moving, demolishing, or changing the occupancy of a building.  For clarification on permit requirements, please contact the Building and Zoning Office at (401) 233 – 1039.

Do I need a permit for accessory structures including sheds and fences?
Yes.  Sheds with footprints greater than sixty-four (64) square feet, and fences taller than six (6) feet, require building permits. Chapter 34-10 of Rhode Island’s General Laws defines lawful fences. For safety, a shed must be properly anchored.

How long will it take for the Building and Zoning Office to issue my permit?
Under Rhode Island General Law §23-27.3-114.1, titled “Action on application”, the Building Official has fifteen (15) calendar days to examine a permit application.  If the Building Official accepts the application, then a permit will be issued.  If the permit application is incomplete, deficient, overly vague, or the building plans fail to conform to applicable building code or state law, then the Building Official must reject the application citing his/her basis for rejection.  The Building Official then has an additional fifteen (15) calendar days, from the date the final amendment is submitted, to reexamine the amended permit application.

How can I ensure that the permitting process will not cause delays? 
Minimize delays by planning your projects in advance, seeking professional advice, and submitting complete permit applications the first time.  Apply for permits up to six (6) months before beginning construction.

What will my permit cost?
Click here for permit fees.  Some projects may require additional fees so please consult with the Building and Zoning Office for actual permit costs.

What inspections are required after my permit is issued?
The characteristics of your project will dictate precisely what inspections you will need.  When the Building and Zoning Office issued your permit, you should have received documentation of the inspection procedure required by the International Building/Residential Code.  Click here for inspection procedures.

How can I avoid problems with a contractor?
Ask the right questions before retaining them:

  • Registered with Rhode Island’s Contractor’s Registration Board?
    • Request a copy of contractor’s registration card
  • Insured?
  • References?
  • View previous jobs/work?
  • Payment schedule?
  • Work schedule?
  • Written contract?
  • Copies of permits?

In Rhode Island general contractors are registered and not licensed.  A general contractor cannot legally accept work in Rhode Island without registering with the Contractor’s Registration Board.

What can I do if I am having problems with my contractor?
Aside from contacting the Building and Zoning Office at (401) 233-1039, also contact the Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration Board at (401) 222-1270.

Zoning Questions  

What is zoning?
Zoning is a term that refers to how cities and towns regulate land use.  Chapter 45-24 of the Rhode Island General Laws, titled the “Rhode Island Zoning Enabling Act of 1991,” requires that every city and town create, maintain, and enforce a zoning ordinance that conforms to the basic provisions enumerated therein. Zoning includes, but is not limited to, the regulation of signs, parking, and land development.

How does zoning benefit me?
Zoning promotes responsible growth and operation by ensuring that parties coexist in a functional, clean, and aesthetically pleasing environment.  These benefits flow to you via zoning enforcement by zoning officials and decisions from the Smithfield Zoning Board.

I have an interest in specific property.  What is that property zoned?
Determine a property’s zone using Smithfield’s electronic Geographic Information System (GIS).  Find the “Geographic Information (GIS)” tool under the link titled “Smithfield Info” on the menu at the top-left hand corner of this page.  Follow the instructions on the “Geographic Information (GIS)” page.

Need assistance?  Contact the Building and Zoning Office at (401) 233 – 1039.

What is a zoning certificate and how can I get one?
A zoning certificate is a zoning official’s written determination of a property’s zoning status.  Zoning certificates may include information on zoning districts, legality of use, and zoning violations.  Parties can appeal a zoning official’s determination to the Zoning Board.  Zoning certificates cost twenty dollars ($20).  Click here for a zoning certificate application.

Can I operate a business from my home?
Home offices are permitted by right in most, but not all, all residential districts.  An appearance before the Zoning Board for a special use permit may be required.  Furthermore, some business operations are prohibited in residential districts altogether.  Avoid unwanted problems by consulting with the Zoning Official before operating a business from your home.

No worries.  Call the Building and Zoning Office at (401) 233-1039 and let us explain.  We are willing to meet you on site, at your home, office, or the subject property, to help you get the job done.