Smithfield planners approve revised DMV design

Published 7:42 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Smithfield’s Planning Commission, on March 29, approved a revised design for the proposed Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office on South Church Street.

New architectural drawings of the 4,800-square-foot building show it now having a brick exterior and a series of gables on the roof.

Two weeks prior, the planners voted 6-2 to reject the project’s original architectural drawings as too modern for the town’s entrance corridor overlay district, which mandates developers use brick or other historic-looking materials “appropriate to town character.”

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The old DMV design, modeled off one in Virginia Beach, had shown gray-colored concrete masonry, beige vinyl siding and no gables.

Planning Commission Chairman Charles Bryan called the new brick design “quite an improvement.”

Warren Sachs, whose KLS Battery Park Development Group LLC owns the land, will lease the building to the DMV. Sachs’ architect, Jeff Wells of Norfolk-based Coastal Design Group, acknowledged he “should have been more conscientious” about the overlay requirements, and contended the prior design had been “put upon us” by the DMV.

This time, the commission’s vote to approve the new design was unanimous.

Despite rejecting the original architectural drawings, Smithfield’s planners had, on March 14, approved site plans that showed an adjacent 7,200-square-foot restaurant and retail building adjacent to the DMV. 

Brad Martin, a Virginia Beach-based civil engineer with the project, said Sachs and his team will return at a future date with a new architectural drawing of the restaurant-retail building.

DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin estimated in February that the DMV would break ground this spring. The project has been in development since 2021.

Smithfield’s old DMV office, on the opposite side of South Church Street from the new site, shuttered in 2020 along with every other DMV in the state in the early days of the pandemic, and stayed closed even when others reopened in 2021 – according to the DMV, due to its small lobby and lack of a public restroom.