Council votes to approve contentious Smithfield housing project during marathon meeting

Smithfield housing project debate.jpg
Posted at 10:36 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 01:59:05-04

SMITHFIELD, Va. – Members of the Smithfield Town Council voted to approve a plan to build hundreds of homes along Battery Park Road.

The council voted 5 to 2 to approve the plan. Vice Mayor Michael Smith and Council member Wayne Hall voted against the plan.

More than 100 residents showed up during the marathon town council meeting that lasted nearly four hours Tuesday, speaking out against the plan.

It was standing room only inside Smithfield Center as one by one, folks voiced their opposition to a massive development project on Mallory and Scott Farms.

Virginia Beach-based developer Napolitano Homes is proposing to build 812 homes in the area, including single-family homes, townhomes and duplexes.

“We understand no one likes changes but change is necessary to grow,” said John Napolitano, senior vice president of Napolitano Homes, to a yelling crowd.

Neighbors aren’t buying it – they say the project is too big, will create a traffic nightmare and destroy the town’s character.

“We are a small town, not a city," said 13-year-resident Cristin Emrick. "That is the draw of Smithfield. That is why many of us live here. That's why I'm staying here, and if we allow overdevelopment to include these homogenous looking homes and complexes, we lose the lifestyle that we've all come to love."

Neighbors pleaded with council members to listen to their concerns and vote against approving the project.

"I have heard that some of you all feel that you owe it, or we owe it to the applicant to approve, but really, don't you owe it to us?" said Gigi Smith of Smithfield.

Megan Allen of Smithfield agreed.

"Your obligation as council members that have been voted into office by the constituents of this town is to do what is best for this town and best for your constituents," Allen said.

Renee V. of Smithfield also opposes the project.

"One argument in favor of the rezoning is that because it's eight separate parcels, if we don't allow this development, the property could be sold off to different developers and the end would not be a cohesive subdivision," she said. "I'm not sure cohesive is necessarily a good thing."

Traffic congestion is a major concern on the two-lane highway that folks say is already busy.

"The extreme pressure on our roads is already felt by all of us who have to commute that Nike Park, Battery Park intersection every day," said one resident. "Adding another 800 houses, I don't care what kind of rotary, or what kind of turn lanes go in, it's not going to take the pressure off our two-lane roads with big ditches on both sides. Nothing is going to change."

Several residents questioned the benefits of the project.

"Mr. Napolitano has yet to prove to the members of this community, how this mega development will benefit the current citizens," Allen said. "I don't see any benefit to the town, changing the zoning from Community Conservation to AR, and especially SR cluster."

The developer argues traffic will be controlled by possibly building more roads, adding the project will bring more life to the area, including attracting hospitals and more retail.

"This kind of development brings more retail, specialty shops hardware stores, etc.," Napolitano said. "Right now there are storefronts and shopping centers in the town limits that are empty."

After the meeting ended, News 3 asked Napolitano why he wouldn't consider downsizing the project even more to fall in line with the conditional rezoning approval from 2006 to construct 265 dwellings. The developer said the project was already downsized and the revised plan actually adds more acres.

Napolitano believes the full development will take 10 to 15 years.