Smithfield adopts design standards for government buildings

Published 4:45 pm Monday, February 13, 2023

The Smithfield Town Council has adopted design standards for government-owned buildings.

The new language added to the town’s zoning ordinance requires new construction on government-owned parcels to be “substantially in conformance” with Smithfield’s entrance corridor overlay requirements, even if located outside the town’s entrance corridor overlay district.

The council members voted unanimously on Feb. 7 to adopt the change, following a public hearing that drew no speakers

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Smithfield’s zoning ordinance currently defines the entrance corridor overlay district as all land within 500 feet of each side of North Church Street, South Church Street, West Main Street, Benns Church Boulevard and Battery Park Road. Among the standards specified for new construction within the district is a requirement that developers use stucco, natural wood siding, brick or other materials “appropriate to town character,” and a mandate that “every effort be made” to preserve “as many trees as possible.”  

The standards would apply to local, state and federal government entities, to include the town itself, though each would have the option of seeking a waiver. Waivers would fall solely to the town’s Planning Commission to approve or deny.

Tammie Clary, the town’s director of planning and community development, mentioned the waiver option after Councilman Jeff Brooks asked whether the change would raise the cost of the town’s Public Works Department constructing facilities that are for the most part out of the view of the public.

“There are exceptions where it makes sense,” said Councilman Randy Pack, who also serves as the Town Council’s liaison to the Planning Commission.

The adopted standards will make Smithfield one of only a few Virginia localities that mandate design standards for public buildings located outside of an entrance corridor overlay or historic district. Last summer, after reluctantly approving Isle of Wight County Schools’ request to place a prefabricated metal office building behind Westside Elementary on West Main Street to house the school division’s special education department, the Planning Commission had asked town staff to begin researching options for setting design standards specific to public buildings. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning ordinance changes at its Jan. 10 meeting.