Smithfield to annex 216 acres across from SHS

Published 6:38 pm Monday, February 12, 2024

Isle of Wight County isn’t planning to oppose Smithfield’s annexation of 216 acres on the opposite side of Turner Drive from Smithfield High School.

In fact, county officials may be the ones pushing for the expansion of the town limits.

“This whole idea for the boundary adjustment was suggested by the county,” Town Attorney William Riddick told Smithfield’s Town Council at its Jan. 22 committee meetings.

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Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said the change was “jointly agreed to,” but didn’t know which governing body had initiated talks.

Currently, the town-county boundary along Great Spring Road cuts southeast across a manmade lake to the corner of Benns Church Boulevard and Turner Drive. The adjustment would move the entirety of the lake within the town limits and extend the Turner Drive boundary just over a quarter-mile down the road.

The 216 acres are owned by the Mollie Turner Trust.

“There is no advantage to the county,” Robertson said. “It simplifies things for the property owner in that they don’t have two sets of rules for the same property.”

Riddick, however, described the annexation agreement to the council as “an incentive” to Smithfield.

“They would like the town to take this property in as potential development property so that it can be served by utilities,” Riddick said, though he declined in a Feb. 12 email to The Smithfield Times to elaborate on the motivation.

Riddick, in his council briefing on the matter, had also referenced a possible connection to Isle of Wight County Schools’ tentative plans to replace its oldest school – Westside Elementary – with a new intermediate school on IWCS-owned land off Turner Drive adjacent to the existing Smithfield High and Smithfield Middle School complex. IWCS spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, at the School Board’s Feb. 8 meeting, told the Times she was unaware of the proposed annexation until that evening.

In August, Charlottesville-based Greenwood Homes submitted a preliminary site plan for a proposed mixed-use development dubbed “The Promontory,” which would add 262 homes and five commercial parcels along Benns Church Boulevard at the northern bank of the lake that presently straddles the town-county line. The plans have yet to come before the town’s Planning Commission or Town Council for a formal vote on Greenwood’s rezoning request.

Were someone to propose developing the to-be-annexed land by the lake’s southern bank, any submitted rezoning application would likewise go through the town’s channels rather than the county’s, Riddick said.

Smithfield renegotiated its water agreement with Isle of Wight in November to give the county the right to sell water directly to residents and businesses that move into the proposed Promontory. According to Riddick, the 216 acres adjacent to the proposed Promontory site would also be served by county water. Any influx of new county water customers would lessen Isle of Wight’s annual cost of participating in the Western Tidewater Water Authority’s 2009 Norfolk Water Deal, intended to wean the area off its groundwater dependence. The WTWA is composed of Isle of Wight and Suffolk.

The Norfolk deal, which increases its member localities’ water allotment annually, allocates Isle of Wight 2 million gallons per day this year. Isle of Wight is obligated to pay for the full amount, even though as of last year the county expected 1.32 million gallons of its 2024 allotment will go unused.

This isn’t the first time Smithfield and Isle of Wight have jointly proposed an annexation agreement. In 2018, three years ahead of the town’s 2021 rezoning of the 812-home Mallory Pointe development off Battery Park Road, the town and county jointly agreed that the town would take in the 212-acre former Scott Farm to place the entire 500-acre development within the town’s limits.

A term of the Turner Drive annexation agreement would prohibit the town from attempting to annex any additional land over the next decade.

Isle of Wight County supervisors have scheduled a Feb. 15 public hearing on the annexation agreement. Riddick anticipates the town will hold its own hearing in March. If approved by both bodies, the new boundaries would go into effect at midnight on June 30.