Letter – No rush on Grange vote
Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
Recent letters dredged up yellow scare language to attack the proposed development of the Grange at 10Main. The letters should be called out for the xenophobic nonsense they are, and as far as the proposed development goes there is plenty to be concerned about without conjuring up imaginary Communist fifth columnists.
The proposed development will dramatically change the size, density and character of downtown Smithfield. These changes could turn out to be positive or negative, so I applaud our Town Council for taking the time to fully consider all aspects of this development. The development will impact traffic patterns, public utilities, schools and emergency services, all of which require study and discussion prior to making a decision.
Additionally, there is the developer’s nebulous request for some amount of public funding, which he may want. Of course, the developer refuses to state what exactly he wants, nor has he made any argument for how a public investment in his private development will benefit the taxpayers. Probably because unless he is agreeing to share some of the profits of his development with the town, there is no benefit to taxpayers. The justification from developers is generally that “the project will generate additional tax revenue.” However, any development will generate tax revenue, regardless of whether public funds are used, so this argument doesn’t hold water.
Both the town and the county have already agreed to contribute significant funds to the “Farmers Market” in the development. This “Farmers Market” is then mostly set aside for a brewpub/restaurant, which stretches the definition of a farmers market completely out of recognition. I would greatly prefer the town and county construct their own farmers market on publicly owned land separate from the proposed Grange development, eliminating any potential conflict of interest. The $2.8 million that they have jointly agreed to put towards the market should be sufficient to build a quite nice market for actual farmers and small vendors to market their wares, probably with funding left over.
While some type of development at the property is probably inevitable, the Town Council has every right to demand detailed answers prior to making any approvals. The development has the potential to enhance downtown Smithfield and provide an anchor for improving the southern end of Main Street, and we are relying on our Town Council to make sure the developer gets it right.