Through their attorney, the Town of Smithfield issued a statement Wednesday afternoon after being named in a lawsuit filed Monday in Johnston County Superior Court.
Developers of a proposed RV park and cabin rental business sued the Town this week after they denied a Conditional Use Permit needed for the developer to operate.
The council voted 4-to-2 on Oct. 3rd to deny Theron Lee McLamb of Smithfield the necessary permit to operate the facility on 33 acres of land he owns on Venture Drive adjacent to the Pine Acres Subdivision and near the Outlet Center. McLamb’s attorney, Chip Hewett of Selma, filed the suit seeking to have a Superior Court Judge overturn the Town decision and approve the permit application. McLamb wants 148 RV spaces and 48 cabin rental units on the property.
Responding to lawsuit today (Wednesday), Smithfield Town Attorney Bob Spence said, “In lay terms, the Council felt the proposed use was too inconsistent with the adjacent use, namely this large RV Park should not be immediately adjacent to the residences in Pine Acres and their back yards. In short, the Council believed that having this RV Park with 196 campfires for outside entertainment for itinerant travelers on I-95 immediately next door to these residences was inappropriate and would adversely affect the existing use, namely these long established homes and their back yards.”
Spence said the town council was justified in the decision based on several factors. “The RV Park would remove the forest on the project land – clear cut it – place a 50 foot buffer with a six foot fence, some existing trees and some shrubs as a buffer between the long border between the park and the back yards of the subdivision lots facing north on Aspen Drive. The proposed buffer is substantially inadequate. The applicant offered no other mitigation of the impact of the project on the adjacent back yards.”
Spence, defending the council’s decision, said the proposed RV park would also be a compatibility issue with residents in the long-established Pine Acres Subdivision.
“The application proposes a total of 48 cabin spaces and 148 RV spaces, expecting full occupancy. They propose 196 tightly packed spaces on 2500 to 2900 separate gross square feet of yard for each campsite, each with its own “fire pit” and “grill”. Thus, the subdivision would suddenly have 196 campfires outside of its back yard virtually every night with each site hosting a group of travelers enjoying camping out,” Attorney Spence said in an email. “The Council finds even if partially screened by a six foot fence and shrubs, that for the neighboring subdivision to be forced to listen to and look out of their back yards onto 196 campfires of itinerant groups traveling up and down I-95 would substantially and adversely affect the quiet enjoyment of the adjacent subdivision, the sense of privacy available in these long established homes, and the sense of vulnerability to neighboring itinerant revelers and campers.”
“The Council believes it made the correct decision that the residential use and the RV campers adjacent to the back yard of these residences are too inconsistent,” the Smithfield town attorney stated.
The last time a similar council decision was appealed was in 2014.
The developers lawsuit contends the Town erred by discussing the issue in an August 1st closed session which was in violation of the NC Open Meeting Laws, the town manager at his own discretion removed the permit from consideration before the July planning board without having the authority to do so, and the council allowed inadmissible and prejudicial testimony to be presented during the October public hearing by residents who were opposed to the RV park.
A court date to hear the civil complaint has not been set.