Town Council approves duplexes

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Smithfield’s Town Council voted unanimously with one abstention on Nov. 1 to allow former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III to construct four duplex houses on a parcel at Washington and James streets.

The engineering firm Kimley-Horn had applied on Luter’s behalf for a special use permit, which the town’s Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve in October. The Town Council vote was the final approval needed for Smithfield to issue the requested permit.

The Town Council had approved the sale of the town-owned land to Luter in early May, excluding two buildings on the parcel: one of which the town leases to Smithfield’s Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and the other to The Children’s Center.

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The application, which refers to the proposed development as “Luter Acres,” proposes an additional four single-family detached dwellings and a 13-space parking lot for use by the VFW for a total of eight residential units. It further proposes connecting Clay Street to James Street via an extension that will be named Clay Avenue.

The four single-family units and the parking lot are both by-right uses under the town’s zoning ordinance, according to the application, and therefore needed no approval from the Planning Commission or Town Council to proceed. The Town Council’s vote concerned only the duplexes.

Jamie Weist, a representative of Kimley-Horn, told the Planning Commission last month that the duplexes and single-family homes would likely sell for between $450,000 and $550,000.

Mayor Carter Williams was the abstaining vote. Vice Mayor Michael Smith and Councilman Wayne Hall were absent.

Williams, speaking to The Smithfield Times on Nov. 11, said he’d recused himself from voting on the matter on the grounds of his friendship with the applicants.

“The Luters are very good friends of mine, real good friends, so they lean on me to see what they should build … I just help them with all of this,” Williams said.

Maynard Gwaltney, who’s been helping the Luters acquire real estate in town for a larger development proposed for the 50-plus acres formerly occupied by Little’s Supermarket and the 1730s Pierceville farmhouse, is “also a good friend,” Williams said, “They just confide in us to be able to help them do what they have to do.”