Commission wants smaller development

Published 1:34 pm Friday, November 6, 2020

Smithfield’s Planning Commission wants the developer of a proposed 1,106 home community to consider a smaller project.

Officials also want the developer of the yet-to-be-built Mallory Scott Farm residential community to implement a handful of other community design and traffic-related changes before bringing the issue back to the commission.

The planning commission met in a work session Nov. 4 at the Smithfield Center to discuss the project in more detail following an October public hearing in which many residents spoke in opposition of the project based on its size.

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Although the commission is scheduled to meet again Nov. 10, the project will not be on the agenda that day, “as the developer is hoping to bring back some changes based on [Nov. 4’s] discussion,” chairman and town council member Randy Pack said in an email. The developer withdrew the project’s application from consideration at the upcoming Nov. 10 meeting. However, the application is still pending and the matter will likely return before the commission in December.

Virginia Beach-based Napolitano Homes seeks to develop single-family, duplex, fourplex and 10-plex homes on land near the intersection of Nike Park Road and Battery Park Road. The community would include clubhouses, swimming pools, pedestrian paths, sidewalks and improvements to existing roads and infrastructure. Approximately 105 acres of open space would remain in the form of parks and playgrounds.

Price ranges would start at $160,000 for a home in a 10-plex unit. A townhome would be $225,000, a duplex would be $260,000. A home in a four-plex unit would be $290,000 and single family homes would start at $300,000.

The commission once again received public comments on the project, and most of the dozen or so who spoke for nearly an hour were not in favor of it as presented. They expressed concerns about the development’s size and potential to negatively affect traffic, school capacity, the environment and Smithfield’s small town quality of life for area residents.

Jim Steil, one of those who spoke at the meeting, struck a moderate tone. He said the small towns in Iowa that he and his wife came from were once vibrant, attractive places to live. But they died because “everyone was so against growth that they allowed nothing to come into the town.”

People who want small-town living deserve the opportunity to experience what Smithfield currently offers, he said.

“I’m not against growth, and I’m not necessarily against all of the parts and pieces that go with this plan but they need to be scrutinized and looked at from a different view,” Steil said from the podium. “Potentially 50% to 75% of the people behind me came to this county for the same reason we did — we wanted something less than Virginia Beach had to offer. We wanted less traffic, less noise, less congestion, all those things, and we found it, we got it.”

Officials had approved a smaller development of about 250 homes in the same area about a decade ago, but the Great Recession halted plans at that time.

In addition to reducing the total number of homes, the commission also wants the developer to reduce the number of multi-story 10-plexes in the project, as well as consider reducing the total number of homes they intend to build each year all while maintaining affordable housing options, John Settle, the town’s community development and planning director, said in an email.

Settle also said the commission’s consensus on changes includes asking the builder to adjust the arrangement of home types within the development by replacing some townhomes with single-family dwellings “to ensure cohesion between the proposed development and the existing residential subdivision,” Wellington Estates, which is on the opposite side of Battery Park Road.

The commission also wants changes and more information on how the developers will handle road improvements.

The road-related changes sought include “a written explanation to the Planning Commission detailing which traffic count and dwelling unit volumes trigger the assortment of intersection improvements,” the developer presented at the Nov. 4 meeting.

Commission members also want to see dedication of sufficient right of way on the side of Nike Park Road the developer owns, which will avoid the need to acquire additional right of way on the opposite side of the road. “This is suggested so that the applicant can, to the best extent possible, avoid encroaching on the front yards of the existing homes located on the opposite side of the road,” Settle explained.

Online petitions are opposing the project; more than 1,100 people have signed one of them as of Nov. 4.

“I have looked at the petition, I have read the comments on the petition. I have looked at NextDoor,” said John Napolitano, senior vice president of Napolitano Homes. “Because we do want to try and do a good job in recognizing people’s concerns and hopefully we can put some of those concerns at ease.”

Although the number of homes planned is higher than first proposed, they will be on a much larger tract of land than the development’s original acreage. In response to environmental concerns, Napolitano said that private docks will not be allowed and natural buffers controlled by the community’s homeowners association are intended to protect adjacent waterways. The developer said he expects the community would grow to its final size over a decade or longer.

Napolitano also echoed Steil’s comments that Smithfield is a great place to live and that, with some planned growth, it can stay that way. “Other people would like to move out here as well,” Napolitano said. “We’re not the bad guys who are trying to come in and destroy something.”

The commission has not made a decision. In accordance with town rules, officials said, if the planning commission does not make a decision by Dec. 8, the matter is automatically presented to town council with a recommendation for approval.