EDA will wait for Grange vote before discussing market ownership

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Isle of Wight County’s Economic Development Authority is waiting to see how Smithfield’s Town Council votes on the proposed Grange at 10Main before ironing out exactly how the EDA would be involved in running the public farmers market building that’s to anchor the development.

The market, shown on conceptual plans as fronting an extension of Grace Street, would include 24 indoor vendor stalls and another 16 covered outdoor stalls. A roughly 7,350-square-foot restaurant and rooftop bar, and 2,550 square feet of permanent retail space, would bookend the building.

According to Judy Winslow, director of the town’s and county’s shared tourism department, the building would also include a farmers market manager’s office, storage and shared bathrooms.

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A fiscal impact study by Ted Figura Consulting last revised on Feb. 5 states it is “assumed” that the market would be “sold by the developer” to the EDA. At the Town Council’s Aug. 1 meeting, Winslow said that a “skeleton working model” has begun to address how to “condominiumize” the building’s ownership.

Isle of Wight County Economic Development Director Chris Morello said that as of Aug. 3 the idea of the EDA being involved in the project had been “discussed at the staff level” and at a 2022 working group meeting ahead of the town and county voting last fall to commit funds for the project.

“The EDA itself has not taken up the matter for business at any of its meetings as of yet because that would be premature prior to certainty that the Grange was moving forward,” Morello said.

The Town Council and Isle of Wight supervisors voted in October to each commit up to $1.4 million toward the building, which would provide a permanent home for the currently seasonal weekly Smithfield Farmers Market. Developer Joseph Luter IV and his father, former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph Luter III, had offered $1 million plus land for the market contingent on the town and county jointly funding at least $2.7 million.

The building would be “managed by the EDA,” Winslow said, through memorandums of understanding with the town, county, restaurateur and occupants of the permanent retail spaces. 

The EDA “would manage the real estate property and collect all related rents and fees,” Winslow said. “The EDA would also enter into a master agreement with the developer to establish performance criteria and codify all relationships.”

Town Councilman Randy Pack, who has recused himself from voting on the Grange, is in negotiations with Luter IV to run the restaurant, and emails obtained by The Smithfield Times through a Freedom of Information Act request show Winslow has courted existing downtown businesses for the facility.

Luter IV, as part of his application seeking mixed-use zoning for the property, has also requested a land use map amendment and special use permit that would waive the town’s 35-foot maximum building height to permit a hotel and three- and four-story apartment buildings. Luter IV’s other five requested permits would allow multifamily housing on principal, waive the 12-unit-per-acre maximum density for multifamily housing, waive parking and loading requirements, waive yard setback requirements and allow five short-term rental cottages.

According to Winslow, preliminary plans call for the EDA entering into what she termed a “master agreement” with the Luters “to establish performance criteria and codify all relationships.”

“A standard industry common area maintenance fee would be charged to the restaurant and permanent shop vendors to maintain the space and surrounding sidewalks,” Winslow told the Town Council on Aug. 1.

The council voted on Aug. 1 to postpone voting on Luter IV’s rezoning application until September after three of the six council members who will be voting on the project expressed reluctance to approve the proposal as-is. The council will hold a work session on Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m. to further discuss the Grange ahead of its Sept. 5 meeting.