IW tables farmers market funding

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors, on Jan. 20, tabled a request from former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III that the county contribute $3 million toward his plans to redevelop the former Pierceville and Little’s Supermarket properties.

Luter has offered to contribute $1 million toward the construction of a permanent home for the Smithfield Farmers Market, a currently seasonal effort by Smithfield’s and Isle of Wight’s shared tourism department — provided the town and county jointly raise another $6 million toward the project. Under a 50-50 split, the town and county would each be responsible for raising $3 million.

Luter purchased and razed the former Main Street grocery store and 1730s-era farmhouse at 502 Grace St. in 2020, proposing to transform the 50-plus acres into a mixed-use development. In December, members of Smithfield’s Town Council and the Board of Supervisors received their first official look at Luter’s plans, which call for a 13,300-square-foot indoor/outdoor farmers market building with underground parking that would front along Main Street.

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The development, which Luter proposes to name “The Grange at 10Main” for its location at the intersection of Main Street and Route 10, would also include a hotel, 225 apartments, 45 single-family homes and duplexes, and 33,350 square feet of commercial space.

The $100 million development is projected to bring more than $933,000 in annual tax revenue to the town and an additional $1.1 million in annual tax revenue to the county.

But the fact that it’s located within the borders of Smithfield — outside the county’s control — has “muddied the waters for me a little bit,” said District 4 Supervisor William McCarty.

McCarty then added he personally “cannot stand behind” the $3 million contribution for that reason.

“I get the feeling it’s being put on us … not being presented and offered to us so much, but put on us,” added District 1 Supervisor Don Rosie.

District 5 Supervisor Dick Grice said he and his fellow supervisors had the opportunity to ask questions when Luter’s team presented their plans at the joint meeting with town officials in December.

“But we didn’t have a discussion,” he said. “Quite frankly, since that time, I’ve come up with a lot more questions and it’s time we sit down and have a discussion.”

The vote to table the matter was unanimous.

Smithfield’s Town Council had voted in January to begin negotiations with the county on a plan for funding the proposed farmers market building — though an official application from Luter for rezoning or permits for his proposed development has yet to be made to the town’s Planning Commission or Town Council.