Smithfield proposes allowing mixed-use developments

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Smithfield’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing in January on a proposed change to the town’s zoning ordinance that would permit mixed-use developments like the one former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III proposes to build on the former Pierceville and Little’s Supermarket properties.

According to town staff, the “planned corporate office and research district” zoning designation specified in Article 3.J2 of the town’s ordinance is not assigned to any parcel located within the town’s borders, nor is any developer seeking that particular zoning designation. As such, the staff proposes to replace the PCOR zoning option with one that would allow planned mixed-use development, or PMUD.

A draft of the proposed ordinance changes states the new zoning option would allow single-family attached and detached dwellings, multi-family residential dwellings, bed-and-breakfast lodging, retail stores and other uses to coexist on a single parcel, provided the lot measures at least 5 acres in size.

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It would also allow four- and five-story buildings, setting a maximum height of 60 feet except where the lot would border a residential district. All other zoning options in town cap buildings at a maximum of 35 feet.

The listed business types would be by-right uses, meaning no Planning Commission or Town Council approval would be needed for a developer to pursue those uses once a parcel is successfully rezoned to PMUD. Some uses, however, such as schools, churches and accessory apartments within a residential dwelling, would still require special use permits.

According to the town’s community development and planning director, Tammie Clary, the idea of allowing a variety of higher-density land uses via PMUD zoning came out of discussions the Planning Commission recently had regarding proposed revisions to the land use map in Smithfield’s comprehensive plan.

Summit Design and Engineering, the Planning Commission’s outside consultant for the comprehensive plan revision process, has recommended creating a more dense, walkable area along the South Church Street corridor, essentially creating a second downtown east of the Pagan River.

But the zoning option would also be available to anyone looking to develop land outside the South Church Street Corridor, like Luter.

Joseph Luter IV, son of the former Smithfield Foods chairman, wrote to Smithfield’s Town Council last year that his father envisioned “a high quality development,” including office space, multifamily housing “for all income levels,” a “small boutique hotel,” townhouses, single-family homes, assisted-living accommodations and, potentially, a walking trail built in conjunction with the Smithfield YMCA.

PMUD zoning would be “way more flexible than anything we have,” said Town Attorney William Riddick III.

Luter IV anticipates presenting a formal site plan for the Pierceville and Little’s land in 2022.