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Smithfield starts Comprehensive Plan process

Karen Machart has no shortage of opinions on Smithfield’s current state of affairs and her hopes for the town’s future.

She opposes the planned development of the Mallory Scott Farm, both for its potential to increase traffic at the intersection of Battery Park and Nike Park roads, and its potential environmental impact, given the development’s proximity to fingers of the Pagan River.

She’d like to see more development and revitalization on the west end of town, particularly around Westside Elementary. She wants to see more pedestrian accessibility.

“I feel like we forget about walkers and others getting around town that are not in cars,” she said. “At times, the traffic is so busy you can’t even safely cross the street, especially on Saturday mornings.”

She’s also concerned about the lack of nightlife and recreational options for younger people, like her 25-year-old daughter, Kiley. According to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, just over 1,000 of Smithfield’s 8,000-plus residents were between ages 25 and 34 as of 2019.

“Living in Smithfield and being 25 is a hard place to be,” she said.

Karen and Kiley made their opinions known at a May 6 meeting with the town’s community development and planning director, John Settle, and Summit Design and Engineering consultant Anne Darby, whom the town has tasked with beginning the process of redoing Smithfield’s Comprehensive Plan.

The meeting, held outdoors in front of The Smithfield Times building on Main Street, was one of several Settle and Darby have planned to solicit input for the plan, which was last updated in 2009. The town is also soliciting input online via smithfieldvacomprehensiveplan.com, which explains the plan seeks to answer three questions: who are we, where do we want to go and how will we get there?

Once adopted by Smithfield’s Planning Commission and Town Council, the plan will act as a guide for land use decisions in years to come.

At the May 6 meeting, attendees were asked to mark a map of the town with color-coded stickers indicating their favorite and least favorite places, what they considered to be the most prominent entrance to the town’s incorporated borders, and any traffic problems they perceived. They were also handed papers depicting the same map, with a prompt on the back asking “in 2045, Smithfield should be….” followed by several blanks.

The town previously held two virtual meetings May 4, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., both of which were sparsely attended. To make up for this, the town is hoping to arrange a “meet and greet” table at the June Planning Commission meeting, Settle said.

The entire comprehensive plan process, from kickoff meetings to the plan’s adoption, is expected to take just over a year. This will entail creating maps and reports on the town’s existing conditions, more workshops with residents, drafting a future land use map and identifying the repairs and upgrades needed for town facilities.

“This timeline has been interrupted by uncontrollable factors (namely the pandemic), but still serves as a viable outline of the phases of this project,” Settle said.