Tastee Freez blighted?

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The former Tastee Freez restaurant on South Church Street may yet be spared a Smithfield Town Council ordinance declaring it “blighted.”

Town officials had written to the property’s owner — A.O.O. Ventures LLC — in June via certified mail, expressing concerns over the building’s condition and giving the owner until July 9 to provide a spot blight abatement plan for the Council’s approval.

According to Town Manager Michael Stallings, the town received a response by the deadline but sent it back for revisions.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We expect to receive a revised plan ahead of the committee meetings this month,” he said.

Those meetings are scheduled for July 26-27, both at 3 p.m. at The Smithfield Center.

The restaurant dates to the 1950s, where it served fast food in the days before McDonald’s and Hardee’s set up further down the street. Its original owner, Virginia B. Ward, sold the establishment to Chuck Powell and Donn Brugh in 1998, who, according to a Daily Press article from that year, whitewashed the “e Freez” part of its rooftop sign, intending to rename the restaurant “Taste Treetz.”

Since then, it’s changed hands several more times and fallen into disrepair. The part of the building facing South Church Street now consists of bare cinderblock walls exposed to the elements.

A.O.O. Ventures is listed on Isle of Wight County’s online tax map as being based in South Carolina. Its registered agent, attorney C. Butler Barrett, is listed on the State Corporation Commission’s website as being based in Emporia.

Had the current owner not responded to the town’s letter or should it fail to provide a blight abatement plan acceptable to the Town Council, Smithfield has the option — after declaring it blighted — to repair or demolish the structure and charge the owner the cost of doing so.