Suffolk developer looks to revive 14-acre subdivision in Smithfield

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

A Suffolk developer is looking to revive a stalled 14-acre subdivision behind Smithfield’s Royal Farms gas station at Battery Park Road and South Church Street.

The town approved Virginia Beach-based developer John Mamoudis’ plans in 2020 to build 150 condominium units across 15 multifamily buildings, but the project never broke ground. When Mamoudis returned in 2022 with a proposal to swap the condos for an equivalent number of townhouses, Smithfield’s Planning Commission opposed the change but took no formal vote on the matter, sending the project into limbo.

The commissioners are scheduled to hear a third proposal for the land on Dec. 12, this time from Suffolk-based Quality Homes Inc.

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Quality Homes submitted plans to the town on Nov. 27 for “The Cottages at Battery,” which proposes 130 detached, roughly 1,000- to 1,300-square-foot one- and two-story houses.

According to a report by town staff, the houses would be “zero lot line” dwellings with rear detached garages. Planning and zoning officials use the”zero lot” term to describe homes that abut or nearly abut the property line.

 

What approvals are needed?

A request by Quality Homes for a change in the town’s zoning ordinance is the only matter related to the development on the Planning Commission’s Dec. 12 agenda.

An application by Development Logistics and Consulting LLC on behalf of Quality Homes contends there’s “no current zoning” that would adequately classify the proposed project, and proposes modifying Smithfield’s attached residential district to allow waivers of the district’s requirements by special use permit.

The district already allows single-family detached residences by special use permit. The specific changes Quality Homes seeks would repeal a requirement that “minimum lot and yard requirements” be met “as if lot lines existed,” and replace it with language stating “all” zoning district regulations must be met “as if lot lines existed, unless approved by special use permit.”

The meeting agenda lists Quality Homes’ request as a “discussion item” rather than a public hearing. The commissioners have the option of scheduling a formal hearing on the matter, and also routinely allow public comments on any matter at the start of each monthly meeting. Once the commissioners recommend approval or denial of the requested ordinance change, the matter will head to Smithfield’s Town Council for a final decision. If approved, the change would allow Quality Homes to return to the Planning Commission with an official application for rezoning and related special use permits.

The town staff report states Quality Homes, in addition to its rezoning application, would need to seek an amendment to the future land use map included in the town’s comprehensive plan, a Planning Commission waiver to allow non-contiguous open space and three special use permits. One would allow the proposed 9.3-unit-per-acre density, up from the eight-unit-per-acre maximum allowed under attached residential zoning. Another would allow smaller lot widths. The third would waive parking and loading requirements.

 

What are the impacts of approval?

A study Ohio-based Cooperative Strategies completed for Isle of Wight County Schools this spring estimated the originally approved 150-home development would have added 45 students to the school system. As Quality Homes is only seeking the proposed zoning text amendment, and hasn’t yet submitted its rezoning application, the information included in the Dec. 12 Planning Commission agenda package doesn’t include a revised estimate. An estimator the county developed in 2018 based on then-current enrollment predicts 130 single-family attached residences would generate roughly 30 students.

At the time of its 2020 approval, the 150-home condominium version of the project had proposed filling Smithfield’s dearth of affordable starter homes by pricing the units at $190,000 and up. The 2022 townhouse proposal called for units priced between $200,000 and $300,000.

The latest application describes the cottage-style detached homes as “unique, higher priced” and in keeping with “the Smithfield town ‘brand.’”