Where’s Smithfield’s DMV? ‘Pork chop’ intersection at the meat of the matter for latest change

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023

In 2021, when Virginia announced its Department of Motor Vehicles office in Smithfield would remain closed even as others had reopened from their pandemic-induced shuttering, state officials said a new DMV center would be built on South Church Street by mid-2022.

Last May, when the only hint of pending construction was a “coming soon” sign next to a Dollar General in the grass field slated to be the DMV’s new home, state officials maintained they were working behind the scenes to bring the center to fruition.

By October, Smithfield’s Town Council approved the DMV to have up to 108 parking spaces, giving the public its first visible indication that the project was moving forward.

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Now, a “modified pork chop” intersection is at the meat of the matter for the latest design change.

The DMV site plans as of October called for “full access” at the intersection of South Church and Mercer streets, meaning drivers would be able to enter and exit the DMV from any direction. The plans also called for extending the access road presently serving the Dollar General and adjacent Royal Farms gas station to provide access to the DMV from the rear of the building.

According to a report by town staff presented at the council’s Feb. 27 committee meetings, the 2005 Royal Farms master plan called for the presently full-access entrance serving the gas station and Dollar General to be restricted to allow only right turns in or out upon the completion of a full-access entrance at South Church and Mercer streets.

The DMV has now submitted plans to convert the Royal Farms and Dollar General access road to a “modified pork chop” intersection. The change would involve adding a triangular concrete island, reminiscent of the shape of a pork chop, which would allow traffic to enter from the northbound or southbound lanes of South Church Street, but would only allow exiting vehicles to turn right.

Smithfield’s community development and planning director, Tammie Clary, clarified in an email to The Smithfield Times following the meeting that the staff report and her presentation was for informational purposes only, and that no action was required by the council at this time to approve or reject the proposed “pork chop” design.

The reason the parking lot needed council approval in October was because the requested number of spaces was more than three times the maximum the DMV would ordinarily have been allowed. The town’s zoning ordinance mandates one space per 150 square feet of gross floor area, or a maximum of 32 spaces for the proposed 4,800-square-foot DMV.

The access road serving Royal Farms and Dollar General is owned by Waterford at Battery Park LLC, the developer of a proposed condominium complex behind the gas station that was approved in 2020 but has yet to break ground.

The pork chop issue was apparently resolved among the site’s private landowners in October, 13 days following the Town Council vote on the parking lot.

An Oct. 17 letter signed by John Mamoudis of Waterford and by Warren Sachs of KLS Battery Park Development Group LLC, which owns and will lease the land to the DMV, states both parties are agreeable to the “pork chop” solution.

DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin, on Feb. 23, said the project was on track to break ground this spring.