Pinewood relocation in final stages

Published 7:26 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2020

By Frederic Lee 

Staff writer

As the Pinewood Heights relocation projects progresses through its final phase, current residents are feeling anxious, but thankful, to get out of the neighborhood plagued by the smell and noise from Smithfield Foods packing plant next door, among other issues. 

With only a few households left to go, a trip down Pinewood Drive will reveal houses boarded up and in the process of being torn down, intermixed with buzzards flying overhead and the constant sound of industrial work going on at the packing plant. 

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Longtime Pinewood Heights resident Phyllis Townsend, who plans on moving into a modular home in Rushmere at the beginning of next month, said it felt “great” that her and her husband’s turn had come. 

Since Townsend and her husband owned their Pinewood Heights home, the town handled the financing for the new house, with the Townsends’ only expenses related to the new house being utilities such as water and electric, she said. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

On process, the town would then acquire the Townsends’ former house, like others in the neighborhood, and demolish it.  

When asked what she was most looking forward to in her new home, Townsend said, “quietness” was her main point of excitement, adding that she wouldn’t miss the pervasive smell of butchery that lingers in the air. 

With the plant’s pig waste lagoons located nearby, Townsend said that the harsh smell from the plant had intensified since she was younger, especially in the last several years. 

Buzzards flying about the area are also a relatively recent development, and have scratched up her and her neighbors’ cars, said Townsend. 

Having lived in Pinewood Heights all her life, she said she’s ready for the change that’s about to come. 

Pinewood Drive resident Lorraine Burrell didn’t feel exactly the same way about her upcoming move, although she did say she was excited. 

“If we didn’t have to move, I wouldn’t because I made this my home,” said Burrell, adding that lots of other people in the Pinewood Heights neighborhood feel or have felt the same way. 

Burrell said she’s planning on moving into a neighborhood across the river in Newport News in coming weeks, and although she described the new place as “beautiful,” she had no problem living in Pinewood Heights because she’s made it her home over the last several decades. 

“We just have to go,” said Burrell. 

Since she currently rents her house on Pinewood Drive, Burrell said that the town was going to acquire the property from her landlord, and pay for her relocation expenses to the Newport News residence. 

Otherwise, town officials have helped her significantly with getting rid of things in her house by supplying a dumpster, and other ways regarding her move. 

Burrell personally thanked Pinewood Heights Project Manager Michael Dodson, with Summit Design and Engineering, PLLC. for his role in the relocation project. 

Another resident — who wanted to remain anonymous — said she moved to Pinewood Heights about 20 years ago, not long before the relocation effort started to unfold.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said on the relocation, adding that she rents her current house with her husband and hasn’t found a new place to live yet. She said that she hopes to be relocated by next winter.

Pinewood Heights 

Due to bouts of foreclosure, rat infestations, resident complaints of the smell from Smithfield Foods and foul-tasting tap water over the neighborhood’s 60-plus year history, the town of Smithfield stepped in with a $9 million plan to relocate residents. The town acquired its first residence of the 70-unit neighborhood in 2008. 

Since then, relocation efforts have been slow but ongoing, with the town financing the relocation of residents, with contributions stemming from community development block grants, revenue from the town’s increased meals tax and also contributions from Isle of Wight County and Habitat for Humanity. {/mprestriction}