The Smithfield Planning Commission voted 6 to 1 on July 19 to approve a site plan for former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III’s “Luter Acres” development project at Washington and James streets .
Luter proposes to build four duplexes and four single-family homes on the site, and to extend Clay Street to connect with James Street. The project also includes the creation of a 13-space parking lot for use by the adjacent Veterans of Foreign Wars station.
In the same vote, planners recommended approval of the special use permit requested by Luter for “non-lot residential units”. According to Director of Community Development and Planning Tammie Clary, the term refers to homes in the downtown residential area that do not meet the yard requirements specified in the city’s zoning ordinance. According to City Attorney William Riddick III, the permit would allow the duplexes to share a wall but be registered as two separate units.
Smithfield City Council will take a final vote on the requested Special Use Permit at a future meeting, taking into account the favorable recommendation of the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission, however, has the final say on the site plan.
Luter had received a previous special use permit from the city council in 2021 to allow the four duplexes.
Ahead of the vote, the commissioners continued the public hearing on the issue that they had started a week earlier, on July 12.
Theresa Mulherin of Washington Street inquired about the current ownership of the 2.6-acre plot, which is still listed as city property on the Isle of Wight County Tax Map despite the City Council voting l last year to sell the property to Luter through his holding company LSMP LLC.
According to Riddick, the sale is contingent on the parcel being subdivided to allow the city to retain ownership of two existing buildings on the site, one that the city leases to the Children’s Center and the other to veterans of foreign wars.
Bob Hines, also of Washington Street, spoke out against the Clay Street extension being renamed Clay Avenue. According to Riddick, the designation of Clay Avenue on Luter’s preliminary plans for 2021 was a misprint, indicating that the road and its extension would both be called Clay Street.
Hines also raised concerns about Luter’s proposed price of $450,000 to $550,000 for new homes.
” In this neighbourhood ? Good luck,” Hines said.
Washington Street resident Catherine Blount also spoke.
“What worries me are the pipes…the pipes that are in the ground, which were probably there before I was born,” Blount said. “Are they going to accommodate the pipes that are going down for the new buildings, the houses that are going to be erected? … I don’t want a mess in my house.
Smithfield Director of Public Works Jack Reed, seated in the audience, said the existing water and sewer lines serving the area had sufficient capacity to accommodate Luter’s proposed development.
Blount then raised concerns about existing and potential traffic.
“I see cars now…they’re turning on Washington and when they’re done they’re on the left side of the street where these kids are,” Blount said.
Commissioner Raynard Gibbs cast the dissenting vote on approving the site plan, declining to comment after the meeting on why he was opposed. He, however, sided with his fellow commissioners in voting unanimously to approve the subdivision to allow the property to be sold to Luter.