Town Council approves limited waiving of public hearings

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Smithfield’s Town Council, in a unanimous April 4 vote, gave itself the option of foregoing a public hearing on proffer changes that don’t affect a development’s “use or density.”

Proffers are commitments made by developers during the rezoning process intended to mitigate the impact of a proposed housing development, such as cash payments or land for infrastructure.

Prior to the adopted change in the town’s zoning ordinance, developers of an approved project who wanted a post-approval change to their proffer agreements had to go through the rezoning process again, including a mandatory public hearing.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The adopted language strikes the requirement of a new rezoning application and instead states there “shall be no amendment or variation of any conditions proffered” until after a public hearing, unless those changes do not affect use or density, in which case the council may – but isn’t required to – waive the hearing requirement.

Per the change, any decision to waive a hearing must be done “by majority vote at the next regularly scheduled Town Council meeting.” Councilman Randy Pack, who also serves on the planning Commission as the council’s liaison, had insisted upon the language to keep any decision to forego a hearing from being made privately behind closed doors.

Town Attorney Bill Riddick brought the then-draft ordinance change to the Planning Commission’s attention in February, stating the previous language had conflicted with state law. Riddick said town staff discovered the conflict upon learning the written proffers Virginia Beach-based developer Napolitano Homes had filed at the Isle of Wight County Courthouse for the 812-home Mallory Pointe development still included a community pier that had been cut from the plans when the project was approved in 2021.

The pier and an associated kayak and canoe storage facility had been part of the original development plans for the former Mallory Scott Farm. Napolitano and the council mutually agreed in 2021 to forego building the pier amid staunch opposition to the development from residents. Preliminary site work has now begun for the first phase of Mallory Pointe, and a water main expansion to serve the new development is slated to begin later this year.