Events center envisioned at Aberdeen

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, September 14, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Former Smithfield Foods executive Joseph W. Luter IV wants to turn a portion of Aberdeen Farm into an events center.

Luter, through his company ROSF LLC, filed a special use permit application with Isle of Wight County for a project called “The Barn at Aberdeen,” to host events and corporate retreats.

The Isle of Wight County Planning Commission is scheduled to review the application on Sept. 27. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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According to proffers submitted to the county, events will have no more than 300 people, with an average of four events per month — or 48 a year — and ending no later than 12:30 a.m. The application is for an area of about five acres out of a nearly 25-acre parcel. Aberdeen farm has hundreds of acres, split into multiple parcels. The application is for a portion of one of those parcels.

The application differs from what Luter told the Virginia Pilot. According to a story published Sunday, Luter said the center would host eight to 10 events a year, in addition to the hunting club, which is already ongoing and has about 12 members, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Access to the site includes travel on Days Point Road, according to interim Planning and Zoning Director Richard Rudnicki.

A similar application earlier this year by the owners of the Monette property, also off Days Point Road, raised a firestorm of opposition. Residents in the semi-rural neighborhood were concerned about traffic, noise, alcohol consumptions and the vagueness of the applicant’s plans. The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors denied the application.

A portion of Aberdeen Farm, which had been owned by Smithfield Foods for years and is now owned by ROSF, has been the location of many public and private events for more than 30 years, according to the application. The property also has an air landing strip.

Luter recently built a new lodge on the property, which is where the events would take place, according to the application.

“The new lodge would be suitable for small events on the interior, but could accommodate larger gatherings outside on the deck and grounds surrounding the lodge and overlooking the James River,” according to the application.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, Luter wants to focus on weddings as a potential event at Aberdeen.

Isle of Wight County is already a hot bed for weddings. Isle of Wight Tourism has touted Smithfield as a prime location for “Encore Brides” and markets The Smithfield Center and Windsor Castle Park as potential venues. Also capturing the local wedding market is Historic St. Luke’s and the Isle of Wight Wedding Chapel in Windsor.

Luter resigned from his position of executive vice president of Smithfield Foods in 2013, and shortly after Hong Kong-based Shuanghui, now WH Group, acquired the company in what was then the largest take-over of an American company by a Chinese entity.  

Luter is the great-grandson of Joseph Luter Sr., who with his son, Joseph Luter Jr., founded the company in 1936. Luter IV’s father, Joseph Luter III, joined the company after his father’s death and became president of Smithfield Packing Company in 1966. Luter III became president of Smithfield Foods in the mid 1970s and guided the company’s expansion into the world’s largest pork processing firm.

Luter IV was elected executive vice president in 2008, and prior to that served as president of Smithfield Packing from 2004-08.  {/mprestriction}