Luter IV appeals to Days Point neighbors

Published 1:44 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pledges fewer wedding events

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Anticipating opposition to his plans for an events center at Aberdeen Farm, former Smithfield Foods executive Joseph Luter IV has distributed a letter to residents along Days Point Road.

The Isle of Wight County Planning Commission was scheduled to hear Luter’s application for a special use permit last night.

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And Days Point residents, threatened with another application for an events center along their narrow, rural road, are again marshaling efforts to oppose the application.

Earlier this year, Accelerated Properties’ application to rezone its property at what is locally known as Monettes for a possible events center, was denied by the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors after stiff resistance from Days Point residents. That decision was followed by a denial by the Board of Zoning Appeals. Accelerated Properties has since files suit in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court asking the court to reverse the decision by the Board of Supervisors. The suit is currently pending. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

In his letter to Days Point residents, Luter said he needs to make enough money to keep up the property in the same manner as his father, Joseph W. Luter III — the man who led Smithfield Foods to become the world’s largest pork processor.

Luter III has since retired and the company was sold in 2013 to Hong Kong-based Shuanghai, now WH Group. His son, Luter IV, left the company shortly after the sale.

Contrary to the proffered conditions Luter submitted for the special use permit, in his letter to residents he said he has no intention of hosting up to 48 weddings with up to 300 people per event. Instead, he expects to limit the number of events with more than 50 people to no more than eight a year.

Luter IV said the conditions proffered on his application, including the expectation of up to 48 weddings per year, were inserted because he was following the guidelines set up by county staff.

With that in mind, Luter IV said he plans to resubmit the written conditions for the property.

While he downplayed his plans in the letter to Days Point residents, Luter has already set up an elaborate website announcing the Aberdeen Farm venue as “coming soon”  — a site for weddings, private events and corporate retreats — a place to stay overnight, play sand volleyball, enjoy 10 acres of hiking trails and more.

Corporate clients can avoid hotel ballrooms and instead enjoy the facility’s personal chef, Colby Fairchild, for groups of 75 or less, according to the website. Local restaurants — Smithfield Gourmet Bakery, Smithfield Station and The Smithfield Inn — are among those listed as preferred vendors.

The website boasts that The Barn at Aberdeen, with two master rooms, a queen room and bunk rooms, has doors sourced from European castles dating back to the 19th century and walnut cabinets made from wood of trees downed during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

In addition to the rooms available at The Barn, there is also The Cabin with four rooms, outfitted with king and queen sized beds. 

The website invites potential guests to submit a reservation to get on the waiting list. The reservation asks whether the event is a wedding, private party or corporate retreat.

In its report to the planning commission, Isle of Wight County staff recommended approval with the following conditions — no cooking in the lodge for large events or the use of the bathrooms for large events without the approval of the health department, and that the use adhere to the proffers with regards to frequency of events, size of events and end of event timing.

The planning commission makes a recommendation to approve or deny, which is ultimately sent to the Board of Supervisor for a final decision.


Private road is one of Aberdeen’s issues


By Diana McFarland

          Managing editor

One of the access points for a proposed events center at Aberdeen Farm is Farm Road.

The narrow road, which begins at Days Point Road and ends at the gate of Aberdeen Farm, is home to about a dozen or so residents who variously pitch in their own money to maintain the private drive.

The prospect of an events center attracting hundreds of visitors, as well as equipment trucks, has some residents concerned — not only about the potential traffic, but also the possible damage to the road.

Farm Road, which was paved about 15 years ago, is now studded with pot holes, including one that recently required 10 bags of concrete to fill, said Charles More, who along with neighbor Dave Green, are in charge of the neighborhood’s “road fund.”

One of the neighbors includes Joseph W. Luter IV, former Smithfield Foods executive, owner of Aberdeen Farm and the site of a proposed events center.

More and Green said that although Luter has been asked to contribute to the road fund, along with the other neighbors, he has so far not done so.

And while some of the other neighbors haven’t contributed either, More and Green said Luter’s use of the road far exceeds that of ordinary cars. Aberdeen, which is actively farmed, employs heavy farm vehicles and machinery, which routinely make use of Farm Road, they said. Aberdeen has also employed logging vehicles, which have contributed to damaging the road, said More and Green.

There is a second road providing access to Aberdeen Farm off Days Point Road, but it is not paved, is curvy and not conducive to large vehicles, said More and Green.

According to records kept by Green, Joseph W. Luter III, Luter IV’s father, contributed $1,100 to have the road paved in 2001, but no Luter has made a contribution since. More and Green said residents are asked to voluntarily contribute a proportional amount, about $150 a year. Because Luter owns all the property running alongside Farm Road, his proportional road maintenance request was $2,100 in 2010, said Green.

It was not paid, Green said.

More complained that over the summer, logging trucks coming and going to Aberdeen in 95-plus temperatures “squished the asphalt like whipped cream.”

More has several estimates on what it would cost to repair the road, ranging from $18,500 for a partial fix to up to $75,110 to do the whole road.

“These people don’t have that kind of money,” said More of himself and his neighbors.

As for Luter IV, “He has contributed zero dollars to the road fund,” More said.

Luter IV’s attorney, William Roddick, said his client does not plan to use Farm Road for guest traffic, but it will be used for equipment trucks. Guests will use the Days Point Road entrance, he said.

Roddick said Luter IV has the right to use Farm Road.  {/mprestriction}