Smithfield planners wary of developer’s redesign that swaps condos for townhouses
Published 5:07 pm Monday, August 15, 2022
Smithfield’s Planning Commission is wary of a developer’s plans to scrap his condominium plans and instead build townhouses on an 18-acre Battery Park Road parcel.
Virginia Beach-based developer John Mamoudis received the commissioners’ approval in 2019, and approval from the Smithfield Town Council in early 2020, to construct “The Park at Battery” behind the Royal Farms gas station and Dollar General at Battery Park Road’s intersection with South Church Street. At the time, the development was proposed to consist of 15 multifamily buildings, each with 10 units.
Mamoudis contends federal regulations enacted to combat the spread of COVID-19, including an air filtration requirement for units that share a hallway, have made his costs too high for the original design to be marketable. He’s now proposing to build 30 rows of townhouses with five units per row to achieve the same 150-unit density without needing hallways, as the townhouses would open directly to the outside.
“I had to go back to the drawing board,” Mamoudis said, noting his new plans would result in an 18.5% smaller footprint than what he’d presented in 2019.
The townhouses would be three stories tall. The originally proposed condominium buildings would have been 2½ stories.
But the planners weren’t enthusiastic about the redesign.
“I was excited about this project that you presented originally,” said Commissioner Dr. Thomas Pope, noting the original design had included porticos and gables. “This is just completely different.”
Vice Chairwoman Julia Hillegass said she too had been “very excited” about the original proposal, referring to the townhouses as “cookie-cutter.”
“I have to sell these products … it’s got to be affordable,” Mamoudis said, noting his original proposal had been to bring “entry-level affordable housing” to Smithfield.
According to past reporting by The Smithfield Times, Mamoudis’ original plan called for one- to three-bedroom units starting at $190,000. The redesigned townhouses would still sell for between $200,000 to $300,000, Mamoudis said.
“I don’t feel like I can support this version. … Your economics are not our top priority,” Hillegass said.
Chairman Charles Bryan said he too had reservations about the redesign.
“We have to remember small-town character; that’s what Smithfield is about,” Bryan said, noting there was already “an explosion of development” around the town with similar townhouses in the Benn’s Grant development outside Smithfield’s incorporated limits.
“Smithfield needs affordable homes,” Commissioner Raynard Gibbs added, but said he too had problems with the proposed design.
Town Attorney William Riddick III advised the commissioners that “pre-judging” Mamoudis’ revised application was premature, and that the commissioners should first hold a public hearing on the matter.