Town Council, county supervisors disagree over rezoning Riverview Park

Published 8:22 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Some members of Smithfield’s Town Council are pushing for more restrictive zoning for Riverview Park.

Riverview, the only county-owned park inside the town limits, is located at James and Washington streets on a nearly 17-acre parcel that also includes a former high school that now houses the Smithfield branch of the Blackwater Regional Library, Paul D. Camp Community College’s Smithfield campus and the Luter Family YMCA.

The entire 17 acres is currently classified as downtown neighborhood residential, or DN-R, under the town’s zoning ordinance. Last year, town officials wrote to Isle of Wight County asking that it be rezoned as community conservation, or CC, to match the other town-owned parks in Smithfield.

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The county, as the landowner, would need to initiate the rezoning process to make the change. County supervisors, however, declined to do so at their Feb. 15 meeting.

“I don’t see a benefit to the county; what’s the point in doing this?” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Joel Acree.


Why rezone now?

“The thought process was that we keep kind of a pocket park in the middle of that neighborhood,” said Town Councilman Randy Pack.

In November, the county sold a sliver of the parcel in question to James Street homeowner Thomas Ippolito for $35,000, according to land transfer records from that month. An unrelated $225,000 sale in 2021 deeded an adjacent 1.5-acre town-owned parcel at Washington and James to developer Joseph Luter IV, who’s proposed to build eight homes between The Children’s Center and the Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

According to Town Manager Michael Stallings, the county has communicated to him it has “no intentions of selling” Riverview Park or the former high school building at this time.

“It’s been a non-issue all these years; I’m more inclined to just leave it,” Smithfield Vice Mayor Valerie Butler said.

Pack, however, contends if a future Board of Supervisors were to ever sell the 17 acres, rezoning the land now to CC, the town’s most restrictive zoning, would force the buyer to apply to the town for rezoning before being allowed to redevelop the land.

DN-R zoning allows up to five dwelling units per acre, meaning a developer could theoretically raze what’s there and build up to 80 homes. CC zoning allows no more one unit per acre and caps residential development at five lots.

County Attorney Bobby Jones told the supervisors rezoning the land could have “unintended consequences” for the land’s current use. While CC zoning allows public parks and colleges, libraries and public recreation and leisure establishments like the YMCA are allowed only by special use permit.

DN-R zoning also requires a special use permit for libraries, and unlike CC, requires a special use permit for colleges. According to Tammie Clary, Smithfield’s director of community development and planning, the library and second-floor Paul D. Camp campus have been operating as grandfathered nonconforming uses.

County Administrator Randy Keaton said rezoning to CC could put the county at a disadvantage should the Y ever decide to expand.

“Let’s say, for example, the Y wanted to build an outdoor swimming pool; they would have to get a special use permit for that,” Keaton said.

Private swimming pools, by comparison, are already a permitted use under DN-R zoning.