Before Don and Kathy Hagerman head to bed, they close both the blinds and their dark curtains.
That helps block out the light from their new neighbor, which is expecting hundreds of visitors, 24 hours a day, following a grand opening at 7:30 a.m. today.
The Hagermans are two of dozens of residents who are expecting more traffic in and around their neighborhood when Walmart opens its newest location off State Road 135, just south of Smith Valley Road.
In response to concerns from residents and city officials about traffic and safety, Walmart agreed to install a median and a right-turn lane on Smith Valley Road, build a noise barrier between the store and neighboring subdivisions and shield lights so they don’t shine into nearby homes. But neighbors of the 163,000-square-foot store say it has already been a nuisance, and they expect even worse traffic when it opens.
In Shepherds Grove, which backs up to the new store, a noise barrier wall hasn’t stopped light from shining into at least four homes. The bright lights are supposed to keep the building secure. But for the Hagermans, it has been a nuisance since January.
Neighbors Patricia Martin and Dick Benjamin, who also live in the Shepherds Grove subdivision, have light flooding their living rooms and bedrooms, so bright that they don’t need to turn on a lamp if they get up in the middle of the night, they said.
Although the lights are supposed to be protecting the building from burglars or thieves, the lights don’t even shine on Walmart — they only shine in their backyards, Benjamin said.
The light comes over a noise barrier that Walmart erected between the store and their homes.
“If you don’t have a blind drawn and dark curtains, it’s like a bright, bright light,” Kathy Hagerman said.
Even with the dark curtains and blinds closed, light seeps in around the edges like a halo into her bedroom, she said.
“My living room is affected. I can get up at 3 o’clock in the morning, and my room is as bright as can be,” Martin said.
When Martin and the Hagermans first were looking at moving into the subdivision, they had no idea Walmart would be their backyard neighbor.
“Who wants to live behind Walmart? Not us,” Martin said.
The Hagermans wanted to make their Shepherds Grove condominium their retirement home, but they are concerned about who will buy the property now. It may not be easy to sell the house with a big-box store directly behind them, and the property values most likely will drop, Kathy Hagerman said. A pond used to be in their backyard, but Walmart is now on top of where the water once was.
Martin said she is unsure if she wants to stay in the subdivision for the rest of her life. She doesn’t feel the neighborhood is as safe as it was now that Walmart is right behind her house, she said.
“I thought I was safe, but I don’t feel very safe now,” Martin said.
Residents in the Shepherds Grove subdivision fought against Walmart when the store first wanted to build on State Road 135 more than 10 years ago. That project was turned down. But then Walmart pitched a smaller store to the Greenwood planning commission that was allowed under zoning ordinances, so the city approved it in 2013.
Greenwood planning director Bill Peeples did his last inspection of Walmart less than two weeks ago. During the inspection, he noticed two lights on the back of the building that glow into the Shepherds Grove subdivision. The agreement with the city stipulated that zero light was supposed to shine over the noise barrier wall into the subdivision.
New shields have been ordered, which will block out the light from glowing into neighbors’ homes, Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz said. As soon as the shields arrive, Walmart plans to install them, Wertz said.
But neighbors also are concerned about the additional traffic along Smith Valley Road and State Road 135. Before the store opened, Walmart had to pay the city $300,000 to install a median on Smith Valley Road and add a turn lane since more traffic will be headed toward the intersection of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135.
But the neighbors don’t think the projects have fixed the traffic jams at the busy intersection. And it’ll only get worse with Walmart opening today.
If Kathy Hagerman needs to turn west onto Smith Valley Road, she knows she will have to check — and double-check — left and right to make sure no drivers are coming. Sometimes, it can take several minutes to find a clearing in traffic and turn left. And if she turns right out of her subdivision, she knows it often will take at least three traffic lights before she can get through the intersection of State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road.
Since the median was installed, drivers have used Shepherds Grove as a way to get around the median on Smith Valley Road. The subdivision put up a “No U-turn” sign near the entrance, but that doesn’t stop drivers from turning around, Kathy Hagerman said.
And traffic jams occur on Smith Valley Road whenever a car or truck is trying to turn left to head to the back entrance of Home Depot or Walmart. Neighbors said the traffic jams would be relieved on Smith Valley Road if the city added another travel lane to the road west of State Road 135.
At this time, Peeples said, the city does not plan to study the traffic again at Smith Valley Road and State Road 135.
“We’ve done what we could with the money that we were given to make that intersection work more effectively,” he said.
In the future, the city will conduct another traffic study throughout the city of Greenwood, but the last one was done in 2011. He said another traffic study would not happen for a few years.
“Who wants to live behind Walmart? Not us.”
Patricia Martin, who lives in the Shepherds Grove subdivision, behind the Center Grove area store