Smithfield mixed-use zoning ordinance set for May vote

Published 5:07 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Smithfield’s Planning Commission has put forward a final draft of a proposed zoning ordinance change that would allow mixed-use developments in town – but will delay voting on the matter until next month.

After debating the change since December, five of the commission’s seven members agreed April 14 on the ordinance’s final wording.

As it stands, the revised ordinance would replace the currently unused “planned corporate office and research district” zoning designation with planned mixed-use development, or PMUD. The new PMUD zoning would allow single-family and multifamily homes, bed-and-breakfast lodging, retail stores and other uses to coexist on a single parcel.

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The version first proposed in December would have set a minimum lot size of five acres and a maximum height of 60 feet for any structures. The 60-foot height allowance would have been a “by right” use, meaning a developer who successfully petitioned the Planning Commission and Town Council for rezoning to PMUD wouldn’t need to seek additional approval to build four- and five-story structures.

The April 14 draft now doubles the minimum lot size to 10 acres, and puts the “by right” height allowance at 35 feet, meaning a developer would need a special use permit to build anything taller. It also now requires a commercial component, and moves the proposed waivers of parking and loading requirements, floor area ratio regulations, yard requirements, landscape and open space requirements, and any use involving a drive-thru from permitted to requiring a special use permit.

The April 14 version further states that an environmental impact statement “shall” be required, rather than “may.”

Commissioner Dr. Thomas Pope, who was absent from the April 14 meeting, had proposed additional language in February that would have referenced the town’s existing zoning laws pertaining to commercial and residential density, but that was struck from the final draft on the recommendation of Planning and Community Development Director Tammie Clary and Town Attorney William Riddick III.

Riddick described mixed-use zoning as being on the “cutting edge” of 21st century town ordinances.

Isle of Wight County already has a mixed-use provision in its zoning ordinance, termed “planned development mixed use,” or PD-MX.

Though there was consensus among the five commissioners present on the ordinance’s wording, they opted to delay their vote until May because Pope and Commissioner Raynard Gibbs were absent that evening.

The commissioners aren’t planning on holding a second public hearing on the matter before voting. At the January public hearing on the original draft, 11 residents spoke in opposition, arguing that it would make it easier for former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III to move forward with his plans to redevelop the former Little’s Supermarket and 1730s-era Pierceville properties.

Luter purchased and razed both properties in 2020, proposing in 2021 to turn the 56.8 acres into a mixed-use development named “The Grange at 10Main” for its location at Main Street and Route 10. It would include a permanent farmers market building, a hotel, single-family and duplex homes, three- and four-story apartment buildings, commercial space and more than 1,000 parking spaces.

The Planning Commission is tasked with voting on a positive or negative recommendation to the Town Council, which will have the final say on whether the proposed ordinance changes become law.