Revised Grange design headed to Planning Commission

Published 3:52 pm Thursday, November 9, 2023

Smithfield’s Planning Commission will discuss and potentially vote Nov. 14 on developer Joseph Luter IV’s revised designs for the Grange at 10Main.

In September, Luter had asked to withdraw his application for mixed-use zoning and six related special use permits for a version of the Grange that had proposed 304 residences and a mix of commercial uses at the western edge of the town’s historic district. Melissa Venable, whom Luter hired to assist with the project’s planning and engineering, rescinded the withdrawal request on Oct. 4, writing to town officials that Luter planned to “submit a revised plan” that would “reflect a reduction in density” and “eliminate the fourth floor of the multifamily apartments” that had been the subject of controversy at Planning Commission and Town Council meetings.


What’s changed since September?

Though Venable’s Oct. 4 letter had pledged to “explore traffic pattern alternatives,” a submitted site plan dated Oct. 12 shows the same basic street layout with entrances to the development on Cary, Grace and Main streets and entrance-only access from Route 10.

What’s changed is the number of proposed residences, which decreased from 304 to 267. These would consist of 48 single-family homes, down from 53, 32 duplex units, five short-term rental cottages and 182 apartment units, down from 212.

The new design also shows additional green space where one of two clubhouses and swimming pools would have been located. The other clubhouse remains included in the revised design.

An updated Virginia Department of Transportation letter dated Oct. 31 projects the development would add roughly 4,700 daily vehicular trips to Smithfield’s roads, down from the 5,500 VDOT predicted based on Luter’s initial design.

The design of a building that would house the town’s farmers market, a restaurant and retail space, intended to anchor the development’s commercial phase, has also changed. In September, Luter had proposed an elongated brick building featuring 24 indoor/outdoor vendor stalls with glass garage doors that could be opened when the currently weekly seasonal market is in session. The revised design still calls for 24 stalls, but would consist of an open-air covered pavilion between the restaurant and retail buildings.

Still included in the revised design are plans for a 70-room, three-story hotel that would front Main Street.


What will it cost?

An early draft of a fiscal impact study prepared by Ted Figura for Luter’s holding company, LSMP LLC, estimated the cost of the formerly enclosed farmers market building at $7.8 million. Luter and his father, former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph Luter III, offered in 2022 to donate land plus $1 million toward construction costs, conditioned on the town and Isle of Wight County putting up $2.8 million. Each locality voted last year to contribute $1.4 million.

A June revision to the fiscal impact study anticipated the county would see $1.1 million in annual revenue and just under $547,000 in annual costs, resulting in a just over $600,000 cash flow by a “stabilization year” of 2030. For the town, it projected just over $816,000 in annual revenue and just over $251,000 in annual costs for a nearly $565,000 cash flow by 2030.

According to an Oct. 19 letter from Figura, the scaled-down version of the Grange would still result in an annual cash flow of just over $589,000 for the county and just under $525,000 annually for the town by the stabilization year.

Luter, in a Nov. 9 email to The Smithfield Times, said he did not at this time have any revised cost estimates for the simplified market now proposed.

“This is a concept only and discussions need to be held with all three parties at a later date,” Luter said. “As I have stated, we will build what the town and county want and everyone can afford.”

Figura’s October letter projects the revised Grange will add 96 students to Isle of Wight’s school system, down from the 110 projected in June.

“Adding future enrollment from pipeline development, Westside Elementary School exceeds its ideal instructional capacity by only three students and Smithfield Middle School reduces its facility deficit to 38 students,” the October letter states.

“Pipeline development” refers to the cumulative impact of the Grange plus other proposed and in-progress developments located in the town and county.


Are public comments allowed?

According to Tammie Clary, director of community development and planning for the town, the Planning Commission is not required to hold another public hearing on the revised Grange plans, as one was already held in May on the earlier design. The commissioners do, however, have the option of holding a hearing even though one isn’t required, Clary said.

A new public hearing will be held at the Town Council level once the Planning Commission makes its recommendation on the revised design, Clary said. Citizens also had the option of speaking on the Grange during the period reserved for public comments on any topic during the Planning Commission’s meeting.

Luter IV is still seeking rezoning to the town’s new planned mixed-use development, or “PMUD” zoning option, plus a land use map amendment to the town’s comprehensive plan and six related special use permits.

The first would allow multifamily housing. The second would waive yard setback requirements. The third would allow short-term rentals. The fourth would waive the town’s 12-unit-per-acre maximum density for multifamily housing to permit 23.6 units per acre, down from the 31-per-acre proposed in September. The fifth would waive parking and loading requirements. The sixth would waive the town’s 35-foot maximum building height to allow 39-foot-tall, three-story apartment buildings and the 42-foot-tall hotel.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Nov. 14 at 2:19 p.m. with additional information on public comment options.