Construction stalls on Luter-owned subdivision in Smithfield’s historic district 

Published 2:10 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

Plans for an eight-home development at Washington and James streets have stalled.

Contractors working for developer Joseph Luter IV requested on Sept. 8 to withdraw dwelling applications for three addresses associated with the 1.5-acre subdivision, according to Smithfield’s director of community development and planning, Tammie Clary.

The Town Council voted in 2021 to sell the formerly town-owned land to Luter’s holding company, LSMP LLC.

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Luter, at the time, proposed extending the formerly dead-end Clay Street to connect with James and to build four single-family homes and four duplex units on the remaining land.  Three of the eight homes had pending dwelling applications at the time of the withdrawal request, according to Clary.

Luter did not respond to The Smithfield Times’ request for comments on why the development had stalled.

The withdrawal of the dwelling applications for “Luter Acres,” as submitted plans had dubbed the eight-home development in 2021, came two days after Luter asked to pull his zoning application for the Grange at 10Main, a much larger development that would have added 304 homes at the western edge of the town’s historic district.

Luter had applied for mixed-use zoning and six related special use permits in December, but withdrew the request on Sept. 6, less than 24 hours after the Town Council for the second month in a row postponed voting on his application.

Luter’s Grange plans had drawn fierce opposition among residents, particularly from those living on Main, Grace and Cary streets, where entrances to the development were proposed.

Luter had told Smithfield’s Planning Commission in May that his father, former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph Luter III, was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lengthy approval process for the Grange. The elder Luter had purchased and razed the former Little’s Supermarket and 1730s Pierceville farmhouse in 2020, leaving 57 developable acres at Route 10 and Main Street.

“My father’s fully prepared to let this land sit. … He’ll let somebody else buy it,” Luter told Smithfield’s Planning Commission in May.

Luter Acres, unlike the Grange, had already begun construction by the time Luter’s contractors pulled their pending dwelling applications.

As of Sept. 13, the Clay Street extension had been built but paved with gravel rather than asphalt. On one of the eight lots sits a pile of gravel and stack of bricks.

Mayor Steve Bowman told the Times he didn’t know why the dwelling applications for Luter Acres were pulled, and declined to speculate.

The town had acquired the land at Washington and James streets in 2008 from Isle of Wight County as part of an agreement to relocate residents of the town’s Pinewood Heights neighborhood behind Smithfield Foods’ meatpacking plant. Smithfield has for years been working to acquire and transform Pinewood Heights into a town-owned industrial park.

Though the Pinewood Heights transformation plan remains in progress, the proposed relocation of the neighborhood’s former residents to Washington and James streets met resistance from downtown residents opposed to low-income housing, and eventually fell through.