Big decision looms for town

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A housing development that could singlehandedly increase Smithfield’s population by a quarter or more over the next decade deserves all of the significant scrutiny it is getting.

A revised plan for the Mallory Scott Farm residential community project near Battery Park and Nike Park roads is back on the Smithfield Planning Commission’s agenda in May, and opponents are well organized to make sure their collective voice is heard.

Since it was last presented to the planning commission and citizens in the fall, the project has been reduced by the developer from 1,106 residential units to 812, a 25% reduction. The community would consist of 107 townhomes, 198 duplexes and 507 single-family homes with respective starting prices of $225,000, $260,000 and $300,000.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Previously, the development included fourplex and 10-plex residential units. These are canceled in the new plan. The developer’s plan retains clubhouses, swimming pools, pedestrian paths, sidewalks and new and expanded roads, including a roundabout at the intersection of Battery Park and Nike Park.

Unlike the project’s most vocal opponents, we aren’t prepared to dismiss it out of hand. Residential growth, when managed carefully, can boost a community’s economy and build its tax base without altering its character. It’s a tricky balance to strike, we concede, and we appreciate the many cautionary points that opponents have raised — from overwhelmed roads and schools to erosion of the small-town charm that makes Smithfield special.

We are keeping an open mind until next month’s public hearing and eagerly await the assessment of planning commissioners, who will make a recommendation to the body that has the final say: the Town Council.

Town officials acted wisely when they sent the developer back to the drawing board last fall. More than 1,100 new homes were unquestionably too many. The scaled-down proposal merits the fresh look it is receiving.