Response to Joe Luter IV
Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
As a 25-year resident of Smithfield, I appreciated Joe Luter IV’s explanation of the pending 10 Grange project. Hopefully, the forthcoming proposal will include a comprehensive business plan and detailed financial analysis.
No one questions the quality of his father’s previous philanthropic efforts. However, as we citizens experienced with the recent Luter Sports Complex and Clontz Park initiatives, total project costs escalated well beyond the early estimates, so that the taxpayer contributions far exceeded those of his dad. Even the impressive Windsor Castle Park gift came with an additional $3 million taxpayer contribution when all was said and done.
The infrastructure challenges at 10 Grange involve substantially more than formidable traffic congestion. Water and utilities, stormwater and sewage management, and local school capacities are not trivial or inexpensive concerns. Density of the Luters’ proposed apartment/condominium and private-residence buildout for Phase I is nearly twice that proposed at that location by a previous developer in 2015.
Again, I am hopeful that the proposal addresses adequate proffer provisions to offset the expense involved — as opposed to the expectation that we taxpayers will pick up that tab as well. I highly recommend Chris Torre’s thorough tutorial on proffers that was published in a recent edition of The Smithfield Times (“Proffers still legal in Va., and they should be used,” May 4).
At the end of the day, both Luters were aware that they were purchasing a very historic property that was zoned for conservation purposes. In fact, Joe III was the first person approached to help save and restore the 1730s Thomas Pierce home and outbuildings. He declined to make a contribution (as, subsequently, did the Smithfield Town Council and several other wealthy locals — so that the Trust for Public Land could not preserve the acreage). That said, I am not opposed to the planned 10 Grange development, so long as it complements our unique small-town ambience and architecture. Admittedly, I would have preferred a landscaped tennis park and walking paths to condos, and an outdoor YMCA swimming pool to the asphalt of 1,000 parking spaces.
Lastly, Smithfield Foods Corporation may stay — or it may go. As a wholly owned Chinese corporation, my belief is that the chairman and his board will base any corporate relocation decisions upon global competition and strategic investment priorities — not upon local housing inconvenience to mid-level executives and junior corporate employees.