Smithfield to contribute $1.4 million to build ‘Grange’ farmers market

Published 4:54 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Following a closed session to discuss “contract negotiations,” Smithfield’s Town Council voted on Oct. 5 to commit up to $1.4 million toward moving the Smithfield Farmers Market to former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter’s proposed “Grange at 10Main” development.

Luter has offered land and a $1 million contribution toward building a permanent home for the market, conditioned on the town and Isle of Wight County jointly raising another $2.7 million. The new indoor/outdoor farmers market building would anchor Luter’s planned 56.8-acre mixed-use development, named for its location at Route 10 and Main Street.

As of July 25, Luter’s preliminary plans called for the market to include 24 roughly 113-square-foot indoor vendor booths and four roughly 348-square-foot walled-off storefronts. December 2021 plans called for additional covered booths and open space outdoors. The more than 13,000-square-foot building would also include indoor bathrooms and one or two restaurants.

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Town Councilman Randy Pack abstained from both the closed session and subsequent vote. He’d recused himself in February from any future vote on Luter’s proposal, noting he and his brother, Brian, are among the interested parties in running the proposed restaurant space. The Pack brothers currently co-own and operate the Smithfield Station restaurant, hotel and marina and a similar establishment in Surry County named the Surry Seafood Co.

All other Town Council members voted in favor of the $1.4 million commitment, contingent on Luter securing all necessary approvals for the Grange. Luter’s son, Joseph W. Luter IV, in an advertisement in the May 4 edition of The Smithfield Times, said that his father anticipated submitting a formal plan for the development within the next 90 days, but to date, town officials have yet to receive the formal application, Mayor Carter Williams told the Times by phone Oct. 12.

According to Williams, Luter and his son are waiting for Isle of Wight County to make a similar commitment of tax dollars before they’ll submit any official request for rezoning or permits.

The Luters’ preliminary Grange plans as of December had called for a $100 million first phase, which would include the farmers market, a hotel, three- and four-story apartment buildings, single-family and duplex homes, commercial space and more than 1,000 parking spaces.

“I hope it does move forward,” Williams said, noting that there’s “a good possibility” the Smithfield Farmers Market won’t be able to return to the Bank of Southside Virginia parking lot next year.

The market’s lease will expire in March and the bank has yet to renew it. If Luter’s Grange plans don’t get approved, “the next question is where could we put a farmers market?” Williams said.

The county and town each appointed members to an intergovernmental task force earlier this year for the purpose of evaluating Luter’s cost-sharing proposal. The group met for the first time in August. At that meeting, town and county officials expressed support for moving the farmers market to the Grange, but neither the task force’s county nor town members had come to a consensus as to what dollar amount to contribute.

According to a fiscal impact study prepared by Ted Figura Consulting for Luter’s LSMP LLC holding company, Luter is requesting the town and county not only “purchase and operate” the new farmers market but also “provide an economic development incentive” for the hotel, and “purchase the development’s infrastructure and utilities through a participation agreement.”