Smithfield Farmers Market returns following lease uncertainty

Published 3:33 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

The Smithfield Farmers Market will return April 1 to the Bank of Southside Virginia’s parking lot despite predictions by town and county officials last year that its lease wouldn’t be renewed.

The market’s five-year lease agreement with the bank was set to expire this month. According to Judy Winslow, director of the town’s and Isle of Wight County’s shared tourism department, the farmers market has received a “verbal commitment” from the bank to extend the lease on a “year-to-year basis.”

Confirmation paperwork is still pending, Winslow said.

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The Smithfield Times is awaiting comments from Craig Face, assistant vice president of the Bank of Southside Virginia’s corporate headquarters, on the terms of the new lease.

In October, citing in part the pending expiration of the lease, Smithfield’s Town Council and Isle of Wight supervisors each voted to contribute up to $1.4 million toward moving the market to former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph Luter III’s proposed “Grange at 10Main” development.

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

Luter’s son, Joseph Luter IV, submitted an application to the town in December asking that the land be rezoned as “PMUD,” an acronym for the “planned mixed-use development” option the Town Council voted in 2022 to add to its zoning ordinance. Luter IV, at a January meeting with the project’s neighbors, estimated that if the Grange is approved this year, construction of the market building could begin in 2024 and would likely take around nine months to complete.

The market presently operates weekly on Saturday mornings from April to October.

At a meeting last year of the town-county task force formed for the purpose of evaluating Luter’s offer, Winslow said the current market receives around 75 applications from prospective vendors each week but can only accommodate 45 to 50. It also lacks bathrooms and parking.