Pierceville sale complete

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Joseph W. Luter III, the former chairman of Smithfield Foods, has succeeded in his quest to purchase the dilapidated 1730s-era Dutch Colonial farmhouse at 502 Grace St. known as Pierceville.

According to court records, Pierceville’s former owner, Mary Delk Crocker, deeded the historic home to LSMP LLC on Nov. 9.

Smithfield Town Attorney William H. Riddick III, who’s been representing Luter in his effort to buy Pierceville and the former Little’s supermarket on Main Street, is listed as the registered agent of that company, according to State Corporation Commission records.

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The company name is an acronym for Little’s Super Market Property, which Riddick set up for Luter for the purpose of buying the former grocery store. Luter closed on that sale in October. According to Riddick, Luter subsequently wanted ownership of the Pierceville property to be deeded to that same company.

The Little’s deed lists an agreed-upon price of just over $1 million, just below its tax-assessed value of $1.12 million. The Pierceville deed lists an agreed-upon purchase price of just over $2 million despite the property’s $89,300 assessed tax value. Riddick explained tax-assessed and fair-market valuations aren’t always the same.

“$2,040,000 was the negotiated sale price that the parties agreed upon,” Riddick said. “For example, the fair market value assessment for the large parcel 24-04-0001 is $1,444,400 and there are 18 other smaller parcels.”

The Pierceville deed was recorded in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court on Nov. 12 – the same day a judge issued a final consent order dismissing Crocker’s lawsuit against the town of Smithfield concerning the property.

Crocker had filed the suit in August 2019, seeking to overturn the town’s denial of her request to demolish the house, which is designated a landmark structure in the town’s historic district zoning ordinance. According to court records, Riddick had represented the town as a whole in the matter, while John A. Conrad of The Conrad Firm in Richmond had represented Smithfield’s Town Council specifically. Conrad had been retained for the town by its insurer, Riddick said.

The judge’s order doesn’t specify the details of the settlement, stating only that one was reached “by agreement of the parties.” The order then remands the matter back to Smithfield’s Town Council for “reconsideration of its decision made in this matter.” As such, a “motion for reconsideration of the application of Mary Crocker for demolition by right for the Pierceville manor house” was listed on the Town Council’s agenda for Tuesday evening.

By press deadline, that meeting had yet to start, but Riddick indicated to the paper that the fact that Crocker no longer owns Pierceville doesn’t necessarily make Crocker’s demolition request moot. In fact, “the court ordered that the matter be remanded to the Town Council’s agenda for consideration,” Riddick said.

Crocker’s lawsuit – her second against the town concerning Pierceville in the past three years – had still been pending when Riddick began representing Luter in his quest to buy the historic property and Little’s. But Riddick doesn’t appear to have been in the position of arguing for the home’s preservation in court while at the same time representing Luter, who has also expressed an interest in tearing down the house.

Riddick told The Smithfield Times in October that oral arguments on Crocker’s latest lawsuit concluded at a June 16 hearing. All that was left at the time, he said, was for the judge to make a ruling. He added that he’s only been representing Luter since September.

The razing of Little’s “can be done right away” once asbestos issues have been remediated, Luter had told the newspaper in September, but demolishing Pierceville, he acknowledged, would likely require “some approval.” Luter was unable to be reached by press deadline for comments on his plans for either property now that the sales have gone through.

Tiffany Brake of Bryant’s Excavation Inc. said in an email Tuesday morning that demolition was expected to begin on Tuesday.