Supervisors reject Monette site rezoning

Published 12:31 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

A bid to expand the types of businesses in a semi-rural residential area north of Smithfield failed in a 4-1 vote Thursday by the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors.

Rushmere District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson cast the only dissenting vote.

Concerns about increased traffic on a narrow country road and the vagueness of the plans presented by Accelerated Properties were among the objections voiced by neighbors living around the property off Days Point Road and known locally as Monette’s.

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About 20 residents spoke against the application and, in addition to the applicant’s attorney, one lone person spoke in favor. At one point, nearly 50 people stood up in a show of opposition against the application. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“We have no problem with business,” said Alan Monette, who sold the property to Accelerated Properties three years ago for $1.3 million, and who lives next door. For decades, Monette and his father quietly ran a military exchange and commissary supply business and later a computer data processing center there.

“Changing the environment out there is going to be something we will regret for a long, long time,” he said.

The most objectionable possible uses poised by Accelerated Properties were a community center and commercial indoor entertainment with hours that could extend to midnight. Fear of alcohol consumption on the site was another concern. Nearby resident Lynn Faulkner alluded to vague plans on a Facebook page that involved actors and “zombies.”

“We don’t need zombies,” said Faulkner, who had collected more than 250 signatures on a petition opposing the application.

The property in question includes three buildings, two of which are currently vacant. The property is zoned variously as conditional general commercial, conditional limited industrial and rural agricultural conservation. Anthony Stile and Joshua Tawes of Accelerated Properties wanted to make it all conditional general commercial because they were having difficulty in finding tenants for the vacant buildings. Stile and Tawes use one building for their Accelerated Financial Solutions offices, which employs about 25 people.

Surrounding the property are numerous single-family homes, some occupied by elderly and disabled individuals living on private driveways.

The application had received two tied votes by the Planning Commission and was sent to the Board with no recommendation.

Former Smithfield resident and mayor Dave Hare, who is currently moving to Carrollton, was the lone resident to speak supporting the application.

“Both parties have rights in a situation like this,” he said, adding that the applicants had removed many of the objectionable potential uses and compromised on others.

“It shows me they’re trying to make this work,” he said, adding that when he lived in downtown Smithfield, a brewery moved close to his house and he didn’t experience “drunkards in the yard.”

Richard Meyers, who lives on Morgart’s Beach Road, said the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office was already stretched thin and this would add to the workload.

“If you make a mistake when you buy something, it’s not the job of the taxpayer to pay for it,” he said.

Their applicant’s attorney, Grady Palmer, said if his clients wanted to build new construction at the site, which overlooks the Pagan River, it would be the wrong location, but the buildings are already there.

Jefferson wanted to know why the nearby houses were built in a “business district,” and whether complaints about the road were voiced only because a change was imminent.

Monette said the houses were mostly built prior to the commercial buildings.

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice wanted to send the application back to the planning commission. Newport District Supervisor William McCarty said the county needs to be business-friendly, but should know what the intended use will be.

“To not know is what’s causing citizen’s concern,” he said.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree, who also works as a first responder, said safety was his biggest concern — both the narrow Days Point Road, as well as the Sheriff being stretched thin as it is.

“It’s the wrong fit for this particular location,” he said.

Board Chairman Rex Alphin said he was sympathetic to business, but that he also puts a good deal of value on a sense of community. He said he could not vote for something that would disrupt that.   {/mprestriction}