Site plan for duplexes at Washington and James streets approved

Published 4:09 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Smithfield’s Planning Commission voted 6-1 on July 19 to approve a site plan for former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III’s proposed “Luter Acres” development at Washington and James streets.

Luter proposes to construct four duplexes and four single-family homes on the site, and to extend Clay Street to connect with James Street. The project also entails creating a 13-space parking lot for use by the adjacent Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

In the same vote, the planners recommended approval of Luter’s requested special use permit for “zero lot residential units.” According to Community Development and Planning Director Tammie Clary, the term refers to dwellings in the downtown neighborhood residential district that do not meet the yard requirements specified in the town’s zoning ordinance. According to Town Attorney William Riddick III, the permit would allow the duplexes to share a wall but be recorded as two separate units.

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Smithfield’s Town Council will take a final vote on the requested special use permit at a future meeting, taking into consideration the Planning Commission’s favorable recommendation. The Planning Commission, however, has the final say over the site plan.

Luter had received a previous special use permit from the Town Council in 2021 to allow the four duplex units.

Prior to the vote, the commissioners continued the public hearing on the matter they’d begun a week earlier on July 12.

Theresa Mulherin of Washington Street inquired as to the current ownership of the 2.6-acre parcel, which is still listed as town property on Isle of Wight County’s tax map despite the Town Council’s vote last year to sell the property to Luter via his holding company LSMP LLC.

According to Riddick, the sale is contingent on the parcel being subdivided to allow the town to retain ownership of two existing buildings on the site, one which the town leases to The Children’s Center and the other to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Bob Hines, also of Washington Street, spoke in opposition to the Clay Street extension being renamed Clay Avenue. According to Riddick, the Clay Avenue designation listed on Luter’s preliminary 2021 plans was a misprint, stating that the road and its extension would both be named Clay Street.

Hines also raised concerns about Luter’s proposed $450,000 to $550,000 price tag for the new homes.

“In that neighborhood? Good luck,” Hines said.

Washington Street resident Catherine Blount also spoke.

“My concern is the pipes … the pipes that are in the ground, which were probably there before I was born,” Blount said. “Will they accommodate the pipes that will go down for the new buildings, homes that will be put up? … I don’t want a mess in my home.”

Smithfield Public Works Director Jack Reed, seated in the audience, indicated the existing water and sewer mains serving the area had sufficient capacity to accommodate Luter’s proposed development.

Blount then raised concerns about existing and potential traffic.

“I see cars now … they turn on Washington and when they finish they’re on the left side of the street where those children are,” Blount said.

Commissioner Raynard Gibbs cast the dissenting vote on the site plan approval, declining to comment after the meeting as to why he was opposed. He did, however, side with his fellow commissioners in casting a unanimous vote of approval for the subdivision to allow the property’s sale to Luter to proceed.