Equitable solution needed for Emerson

Emerson Avenue on the east side of Greenwood is a major transportation and business corridor linking Main Street and County Line Road. For years, warehouses, assembly plants or companies doing light manufacturing have been allowed along the street, with retail only at the ends.

Longtime residents are likely to remember when the now five-lane thoroughfare bustling with commercial activity was a two-lane road notable only for a tank farm with a smiley face painted on the side of one tank.

Now the city council is considering rezoning undeveloped land along that stretch of the street from an industrial classification, which allows small factories and warehouses, to one that includes offices, medical facilities or shopping centers.

The push started after Goodwill Enterprises proposed a 125,000-square-foot warehouse and outlet shop about a ½-mile south of County Line Road. The council blocked a zoning change that would allow the facility, and some council members have said that distribution centers should be located east of Interstate 65.

Property owners and developers disagree with the council’s efforts to change what type of developments are allowed along the corridor. They argue that commercial uses aren’t feasible for land that is hundreds of feet off Emerson Avenue, developers have invested millions into building roads and utilities for future industrial development, and changing zoning will affect resale value of existing industrial buildings if they no longer could be used for that type of business.

A three-member committee of council members composed of Mike Campbell, Linda Gibson and Thom Hord will discuss with the city’s planning staff and developers whether rezoning will work or if the changes will create too many problems for the existing developments.

We hope the council committee can craft a compromise that will satisfy both developers and city leaders who would like to see attractive businesses line the street. But the guidelines must take into account that some landowners in the area purchased their properties with an eye toward industrial activity not covered under proposed zoning.

Perhaps a starting point would be a suggestion by developer J. Greg Allen, who is behind the proposed Goodwill warehouse and outlet store. The project would be built well off the road, and the lots on Emerson would be left open for smaller commercial or retail development. If the city wanted to change properties directly on Emerson Avenue to commercial, that would work, but anything farther from the road should stay industrial, Allen has suggested.

This would seem to meet both the desire for an attractive stretch of street while maintaining the existing zoning for land farther from Emerson.

We share both the city’s wish to increase retail activity and developers’ desire to utilize land they own effectively. So we hope the city can craft an equitable solution.

At issue

Greenwood officials would like more-attractive businesses to line Emerson Avenue between Main Street and County Line Road.

Our point

A compromise would allow streetside development and preserve existing zoning for land farther from the street.