Smithfield planners ‘as of right’ oppose five-story buildings in mixed-use zoning – Smithfield Times

After an hour-and-a-half working session on February 23, the Smithfield Planning Commission is now opposing the idea of ​​allowing four- and five-storey buildings as “entitled” uses in single-use developments. mixed.

Since December, the commission has been debating a proposed Smithfield zoning ordinance amendment that would replace the currently unused “Planned Corporate Office and Research District” zoning designation with a Planned Mixed-Use Development, or PMUD. The new zoning of the PMUD would make it possible to coexist on the same parcel single-family and multi-family houses, bed and breakfasts, retail businesses and other uses.

A provision of the proposed amendments would have set a maximum height of 60 feet for SMU structures instead of the current limit of 35 feet. The 60ft allowance had been listed in the draft amendments as an “entitlement” use, meaning that a developer who was successful in applying to the Planning Commission and Smithfield City Council for PMUD zoning would not would not have to seek additional approval to build four- and five-story structures.

After considering whether the proposed PMUD zoning or the city’s Historic Preservation District zoning would take precedence if a developer requested PMUD zoning in the city’s historic district, the commissioners agreed to remove the law provision from 60 feet and instead require a special use permit. for anything over 35 feet.

The Historic Preservation Overlay District requires developers of new construction to “consider…the special qualities that the HP-O District is established to protect, including the height of buildings,” but does not set a specific maximum height. As an overlay district that applies on top of existing zoning, the Historic District instead requires that maximum building heights be determined by “regulations applicable to other districts on which the HP-O district is superimposed.”

Former Smithfield Foods President Joseph W. Luter III is proposing to build a mixed-use development on more than 50 acres at the west end of the Smithfield Historic District. The development would be named “The Grange at 10Main” for its location on Main Street and Route 10.

Although Luter has not yet applied for rezoning or permits, his preliminary plans call for a permanent 13,300 square foot farmers’ market building, a hotel, three- and four-story apartment complexes with a total of 225 units, 45 single-family and duplex homes, 33,350 square feet of commercial space and over 1,000 parking spaces.

While some commissioners have acknowledged that PMUD zoning is likely the route Luter would choose to obtain the necessary approvals for his proposed development, others view the ordinance changes and any decision they make on Luter’s proposal as separate and unrelated.

“We’re not changing that just for this project…it’s not about The Grange at all,” curator Julia Hillegass said.

Commissioner Randy Pack, who also sits on city council, further suggested increasing the minimum lot size for which a developer could apply for PMUD zoning. The proposed amendments to the ordinance would currently limit SUMP to parcels of at least 5 acres. Pack proposed raising the minimum to 20 acres, while President Charles Bryan preferred 10 acres.

Commissioner Dr. Thomas Pope then addressed the issue of density, stating that he would prefer to remove language requiring a minimum side yard setback of 10 feet and a maximum floor area ratio of 2.0 for structures. residential and commercial.

A setback refers to the minimum distance between structures, while floor area ratio measures the square footage of a proposed building to the square footage of the lot it would be located on.

According to Smithfield’s existing zoning ordinance, the floor area ratio is calculated by dividing the gross floor area of ​​all buildings on a lot by the area of ​​that lot. For residential components of a mixed-use development, the number of houses per acre would depend on the gross floor area of ​​each house.

Instead of using this calculation, Pope proposed adding references to the city’s existing zoning laws regarding commercial and residential density.

“It’s too dense as written,” Pope said.

He then offered to draft his own density language and provide copies to the other commissioners at their next meeting for review.

Pack also wants added language requiring a developer to fund traffic and environmental impact studies carried out by companies chosen by the city, to remove any perceived bias in favor of the developer in many areas. such studies.

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