Still no vote on 615-home ‘Sweetgrass’ development planned next to Sherwin Williams

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission, for the second month in a row, postponed voting on the Sweetgrass mixed-use community planned for just outside Smithfield.

NVR, the Reston-based parent company of Ryan Homes, has proposed 615 homes and up to 73,000 square feet of retail and office space for the roughly 250-acre Yeoman Farm next to the Sherwin Williams store on Benns Church Boulevard.

NVR and Henry Layden, trustee of the Yeoman Farm, have applied for conditional mixed-use zoning to permit 390 age-restricted single-family homes, 225 unrestricted townhouses and a commercial component spanning roughly 5 acres.

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The commissioners had postponed voting on a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors in September after asking several questions of Isle of Wight County Schools Deputy Superintendent Christopher Coleman regarding the development’s potential impacts on the school system. According to a report included with the commissioners’ Oct. 24 meeting agenda, Coleman told county staff he needed additional time to provide answers.

Among the questions was whether any school buses were serving other age-restricted communities in the county. According to Tim Trant, an attorney for Sweetgrass, fair-housing laws require that age-restricted homes have at least one resident age 55 or over, and no residents under age 19. The commissioners had also asked for data on each affected school’s current student load, capacity and population growth projections. At the Oct. 24 meeting, several commissioners also raised concerns regarding the cumulative impacts of Sweetgrass and other planned developments in and around Smithfield.

“I think we do our community a disservice when we look at each development application on its own and not all of the development applications that are out there or coming our way,” said Commissioner Jennifer Boykin.

A traffic study submitted with the mixed-use zoning application projects Sweetgrass alone would add 6,685 daily vehicular trips to Benns Church Boulevard. The non-age-restricted phase of Sweetgrass is projected to add 52 students to the school system.

Another mixed-use development dubbed “The Promontory,” which would be located just inside the town’s limits, has proposed building an additional 262 homes and five commercial parcels on the opposite side of Benns Church Boulevard from Sweetgrass behind and adjacent to the Smithfield Tractor Supply. The Promontory is under review by Smithfield’s planning staff and will eventually go to the town’s Planning Commission and Town Council for a vote.

Already under construction is the planned 50-bed Riverside Smithfield Hospital on Benns Church Boulevard and the apartment phase of the adjacent 776-home Benn’s Grant development. The hospital is set to open in early 2026.

Once the Isle of Wight Planning Commission votes on its recommendation, the Sweetgrass application will be forwarded to the county’s supervisors for a final decision.