Smithfield DMV breaks ground

Published 5:17 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

State and town officials gathered under a tent in Smithfield on a rainy Friday afternoon, shovels in hand, to ceremonially break ground on the state’s newest Department of Motor Vehicles office.

The new 4,800-square-foot DMV, which will be located on South Church Street between Dollar General and True Value Hardware, is targeted to open by the end of this year, according to DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin.

The replacement of Smithfield’s old DMV on the opposite side of the street has been two years in the making. It 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 state, due to its small lobby and lack of a public restroom.

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Among the officials who spoke were Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller, Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman.

The project, Brewer said, could not have come to fruition without the “united front” the town, developer and state put forward.

The project had stalled over the past two years, most notably when Smithfield’s Planning Commission voted last month to reject designs for the building that would have modeled it off one in Virginia Beach. Amid speculation by developer Warren Sachs that any further delays could kill the project, Sachs’ architectural team quickly turned around a redesign, which Smithfield’s planners voted to approve at a special March 29 meeting.

Bowman thanked the General Assembly and Gov. Glenn Youngkin for approving the funding for the DMV’s construction and Sachs for working with the Planning Commission on the last-minute redesign.

The latest drawings of the building show it with a brick exterior and a series of gables on the roof. The planners had objected to the originally proposed gray-colored concrete masonry and beige vinyl siding as inconsistent with the town’s entrance corridor overlay district, which mandates developers use brick or other historic-looking materials “appropriate to town character.”

Miller noted the DMV has been working to reduce its customer wait times. When Miller started as secretary of transportation, he said, the average statewide wait time was 38 minutes. Now it’s down to 10-11 minutes.