Letter – Grange was poor fit for downtown 

Published 6:26 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

I attended the Sept. 5 Town Council meeting since I anticipated a decision on the Grange application. Instead, the council “kicked the can down the street” for a review of traffic concerns.

During this new study cycle, the town needs to hire its own traffic engineer and not depend upon the results of the developer’s consultant.

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We all know that a large number of citizens strongly oppose the Grange application in its current configuration. The root cause of this opposition is high housing density, which directly impacts many concerns, including traffic. Basically, citizens are concerned about quality of life while the developer wants to squeeze as many housing units into this historical parcel as possible.

We all want the Luters to develop the Grange site since the Luters have spoiled the town through their generosity. However, sometimes we don’t get what we wish for. The special use permit relative to proposed housing density should not be approved. In addition, high-rise apartment buildings are grossly inappropriate for our historic district.

It appears that Mr. Luter purchased the parcels while assuming that the town would rubber-stamp his exceptions to the town’s development standards. All developers should buy property with the assumption government bodies will not deviate from their standards. 

Perhaps Mr. Luter is caught between a rock and a hard place in that he may have paid too much for the parcels and now wants the town to bail him out of a poor business decision by allowing unacceptable housing density. If the town rejects the Grange application the town should reimburse Mr. Luter for the demolition of Little’s Market and the Pierceville structures, which were eyesores and had paralyzed the Town Council in the past.

As a sidebar, the visionaries on the Town Council and the Planning Commission missed an opportunity to solve the farmers market dilemma. The town should have purchased the Bank of America parcel when it was for sale. The property sold for $800,000, which would have left about $2.1 million available to configure the property as tourism saw fit.


R.K. Redlin