Council declines to amend comp plan for Pierceville development

Published 1:29 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2016

By Diana McFarland

News editor

The Smithfield Town Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to deny the comprehensive plan change necessary to further consider a 151-single family home development on the historic Pierceville farm.

The comprehensive plan land use change would have been from parks and recreation and some downtown commercial to suburban residential.

Mayor Carter Williams and Vice Mayor Andrew Gregory voted against the denial.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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The Town Council also accepted the developer’s request to withdraw the rezoning application without prejudice. That legal hook allows the property owner and developer to pursue other ideas for the 58 acre farm which includes the circa 1730 Pierceville house. The project, called Cary and Main, reflected its location along those two thoroughfares in the town’s historic district.

“I don’t feel the applicant has persuaded me to change the comprehensive plan,” said Town Council member Milton Cook.

Gregory agreed with Cook.

 “I think we can do better. I think we can get there,” he said, adding that he also respects the property rights of the elderly owner of the Pierceville property, Mary Delk Crocker.

Crocker opted to leave her home and put the property up for sale after ordered by Isle of Wight County to renovate the property under the auspices of Smithfield’s historic district ordinance. The property was offered for $2 million.

The controversial project raised the ire of many downtown residents and gave rise to a new entity, Preserve Smithfield, of which its members announced its officers during the town council meeting.

Opposition to the project was across the board — from density to traffic to accusations hurled at town officials that they were not following proper procedure.

Meanwhile, the Smithfield Board of Architectural and Historic Review decided last month to proceed with the “demolition by neglect” process for the Pierceville house.

Several individuals urged the Town Council Tuesday to give special attention to the house, which is considered one of the oldest examples of a Dutch-roofed structure in Isle of Wight County.

According to the town ordinance, Crocker will be given 90 days to remedy the violations, which include exterior deterioration among other problems.

If Crocker fails to respond then the BHAR can enter the property and make repairs to secure, preserve the integrity and safety of the home. Then a lien will be placed against the property, or in a hardship case it will be paid by the town from an established fund, according to town ordinance.{/mprestriction}