Developer: Smithfield DMV needs more parking

Published 3:28 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2022

A new Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles customer service center in Smithfield will require more than three times the maximum number of parking spaces allowed under the town’s zoning ordinance, according to the project’s developer.

Warren Sachs, owner of Virginia Beach-based KLS Battery Park Development Group LLC, has applied for a special use permit that would allow for up to 108 parking spaces dedicated to the new office, which the DMV would lease from him. The town’s zoning ordinance specifies one space per 150 square feet of gross floor area, meaning a maximum of 32 spaces for the proposed 4,800-square-foot South Church Street office.

Smithfield’s Planning Commission voted unanimously on Sept. 13 to give a favorable recommendation to Sachs’ requested permit. Assuming Smithfield’s Town Council gives final approval for the 108 spaces next month, DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin said the state agency now hopes to have the new facility open sometime in 2023.

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According to Sachs, the DMV had initially requested 140 parking spaces to accommodate the anticipated number of regional customers looking to obtain or renew their driver’s licenses or conduct other DMV business, but he was able to negotiate the number down to the current requested 108.

The new DMV office would be located on a 3.8-acre parcel adjacent to Dollar General on South Church Street. The DMV had initially anticipated breaking ground last fall and opening the facility by mid-2022. As of May, the DMV acknowledged the project had yet to break ground but maintained the new facility would still be open by the end of the year.

Sachs is proposing to construct a 6,000-square-foot building adjacent to the proposed DMV office on the same parcel to house a restaurant and retail store. Sachs declined to name the restaurant or store that would become tenants of the site, noting that negotiations were ongoing and contingent on the DMV office moving forward.

The new DMV office will replace the shuttered DMV center further down and on the opposite side of the street; that building is now home to the Office Express Plus shipping and printing business. The old facility shuttered on March 18, 2020, along with every other DMV office in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but remained closed even when others reopened – according to the DMV, due to its small lobby and lack of a public bathroom.

Currently, the closest DMV centers to Smithfield offering in-person services are in Hampton, Portsmouth and Suffolk. DMV Connect, which Cowardin described as the agency’s mobile “office in a suitcase,” also makes regularly scheduled visits to the Smithfield area, she said.