Smithfield Herald

Council paves way for growth

Councilman Emery Ashley, left, asks Planning Director Paul Embler to point out how land north of Walmart is zoned.
Councilman Emery Ashley, left, asks Planning Director Paul Embler to point out how land north of Walmart is zoned.

The Smithfield Town Council last week rezoned almost 250 acres behind Walmart for commercial and multifamily housing use.

The mostly undeveloped land lies east of Booker Dairy Road, north of Bright Leaf Boulevard and west of U.S. 70, said Planning Director Paul Embler. No development plans have been filed with the town, but the rezoning should make it easier to attract projects.

The landowners have high hopes for the property, according to their rezoning application, which called the land the “the next commercial growth area in Smithfield.”

Access and infrastructure to the land should get a boost from the N.C. Department of Transportation, which plans to widen Booker Dairy Road and add an extension that would run behind Walmart to North Bright Leaf Boulevard.

The DOT has the $10.4 million project scheduled for 2018, and Embler said the state told him March 3 that it had completed 90 percent of the necessary planning.

“The money has been appropriated, and as close as I could get them to commit to, it will be under construction within a five-year period,” Embler said. “My guess is the earliest you’re going to see construction is about three years out.”

The newly rezoned land belongs to the Nell Howell Revokable Trust. Howell was the widow of Rudy Howell, a Smithfield businessman who had considerable real estate holdings in Johnston County.

Other action

Also last week, the council:

▪  Gave Girl Scouts Sarah Gaskins and Clair McGeough permission to paint a mural under the Market Street bridge on the Smithfield Town Commons. The project is for the scouts’ Silver Award, and the town hopes it will reduce graffiti. The mural will feature stops along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, including Boone, Biltmore Estate, Smithfield, Topsail Island and Cape Hatteras.

▪  Agreed to spend $41,000 for the water and sewer department to license and use a software-based asset-management system. The town currently relies on employees’ memories and paper maps to keep track of lines, manholes, lift stations and other assets.

▪  Bought the public works department a 2015 Chevrolet service truck for $24,332 and a 2015 Ford F350 flatbed truck for $32,801.

▪  Agreed to spend $29,688 to replace the grinder at one of the town’s lift stations.

Hamlin: 919-836-5768