Tractor Supply greenhouse tabled again

Published 2:53 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Smithfield’s Planning Commission has again tabled a request by Tractor Supply Co. to add a greenhouse and drive-through to its store at the edge of town.

The matter had previously come up in January. The company plans to locate the proposed 3,500 addition adjacent to the existing store on land currently being used as a fenced outdoor sales area. The drive-through would replace the store’s existing curbside pickup zone.

Tractor Supply proposes to construct the greenhouse from white polycarbonate panels, with two roll-up curtains facing Benn’s Church Boulevard. In January, several commissioners had asked the company to redesign the addition to be more in keeping with Smithfield’s Entrance Corridor Overlay District. The matter was back on the commission’s March 8 agenda.

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According to the town’s zoning ordinance, the district’s purpose is to “protect the aesthetic and visual character” of areas “adjacent to major existing and proposed highway corridors.”

According to Chris Goggin, Tractor Supply’s construction project manager, the addition will now be modeled off one in Georgia, which served as the prototype for the company’s plans to add greenhouses and drive-throughs to its stores nationwide. But doing away with the polycarbonate panels isn’t an option.

“To function as a greenhouse, we need the polycarbonate,” Goggin said.

Goggin’s remarks didn’t reassure Planning Commission Chairman Charles Bryan.

“This entrance corridor overlay where you’re asking to place this structure … we wanted things there to say something about Smithfield itself, not to be Anytown, USA,” Bryan said. “I just have a problem with a tent-like structure on the main corridor into town.”

Tractor Supply is seeking an entrance corridor overlay review and two special use permits – one for the greenhouse and one for the drive-through. While the Planning Commission has the discretion to delay its decision on the entrance corridor overlay review, there’s a 90-day window to issue a favorable or unfavorable recommendation on the two requested permits. If no decision is reached during that window, the applications are forwarded to Smithfield’s Town Council with an automatic recommendation for approval — unless the town and the applicant mutually agree to an extension of the deadline.

Goggin agreed verbally to an extension at the meeting, but will need to submit something in writing for the extension to become official.

As the Planning Commission’s next meeting won’t occur until after the 90-day window has elapsed, the March 8 motion to table the matter included a provision to recommend denial of both permits if the written agreement isn’t received in time. The motion passed unanimously with Commissioners Michael Torrey and Randy Pack absent.