Letter – Concerns about Grange at 10Main
Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
The property being considered for the Grange at 10Main development would be a good site for a well-planned, mixed-use development. The application before Town Council, with a possible vote on Aug. 1, is a developer-prepared package, with inadequate vetting by the town and Planning Commission. If a vote is taken on the rezoning as presented, the vote should be no.
Before the rezoning requests can be considered, the following needs to be reviewed and the town’s best interest incorporated:
- Farmers market: Currently incorporated into the anchor structure of the development, the farmers market isn’t compatible in form or function from a design perspective, not financially feasible and not desirable, for vendors or citizens, to have the beloved “small-town” market moved indoors.
The Farmers Market needs to be taken out of this equation. Have a task force thoroughly investigate options for a permanent outdoor farmers market and let this development stand on its own merits.
- Public funds: Town Council voted to contribute $1.4 million toward the market, Isle of Wight County supervisors another $1.4 million. The development team’s financial analysis in January showed intent to recoup $7.6 million, not including interest, for infrastructure. This request is unprecedented either in the county or the town. The seventh-fastest-growing county in Virginia doesn’t need to pay developers for what is primarily a housing community.
- The developer’s request for rezoning with “imaginary” renderings of the development — 304 homes, three- and four-story apartment buildings, restaurants and retail — contains no conditions. There is nothing that ties the development team – with Venture Realty Group and WeldenField & Rowe responsible for home construction once the project gets rezoned – to any renderings or concept plans.
While some Town Council members claim they won’t use public funds (beyond the $1.4 pledged to the farmers market) for this development, once it is rezoned, with no conditions required, the developer has all the power. “Imagine” the cheapest housing being planned unless public funds are provided or “economic uncertainty” dictating all housing (phase II) put in prior to public/retail structures and no landscaping (think Benn’s Grant).
Joe Luter IV says the numbers the development team prepared for the proposed cost participation agreement are inflated – that they have new estimates but that they won’t be made public until a formal funding request is made to the council. That is not a philanthropic developer – but one making unprecedented and unreasonable demands.