Smithfield planners favor moving ‘burn building’ to Cary Street

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

A Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department proposal to relocate up to a dozen shipping containers to town-owned land on Cary Street is headed to Smithfield’s Town Council with a favorable recommendation from its Planning Commission.

The request includes a two-story structure made from shipping containers, which the department calls its “burn building.” The structure is intended to resemble the layout of a house and allow firefighters to conduct live-fire training.

The department has requested a special use permit and site plan amendment. The move is intended to bring the county-owned fire station and an adjacent town-owned parcel behind the station into compliance with changes to Smithfield’s zoning ordinance enacted in March.

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The ordinance allowed permanent shipping containers by special use permit in light industrial zoning, farmlands zoned as community conservation, and the town’s highway retail commercial district. A 2022 report by town staff had identified 16 businesses and organizations with non-permitted shipping containers, prompting a flurry of applications for after-the-fact approvals once the ordinance changed.

The Police Department is also proposing a mobile modular shooting house located at the Cary Street parcel on a roughly 3,000-square-foot concrete pad.

According to a report by town staff, the site is at the edge of the town’s limits and would be mostly screened from view. Fencing is to be installed to match what is currently on the property, with two gates for fire truck access.

The only concern raised during the Planning Commission’s Oct. 12 public hearing on the matter was concerning traffic generated by fire trucks arriving for training via Cary, which narrows south of Goose Hill Way heading into downtown.