County wise to seek Center Grove area input

Many Center Grove area residents will tell you it’s a great place to live but not so great when it comes to shopping or dining out. Residents say they need more options so they can shop closer to home and avoid the traffic backups on State Road 135.

Most of the unincorporated portion of White River Township is zoned so that only homes can be built. About 25,000 people live there. But because most of the area is unincorporated, meaning residents do not get services or representation from a city or town, guidelines for development in the area are included in the county’s comprehensive plan.

Johnson County Planning Director David Hittle said the countywide plan doesn’t give officials enough detail to know what exactly should be developed based on what residents want and what the area needs. So, the county plans to ask a committee of residents to come up with those plans.

A 15-member committee, which could include residents, teachers, public safety officials and business owners, will be asked to examine the overall area, and smaller groups will focus on specific areas, such as Fairview Road and Smith Valley Road near State Road 37 or along Morgantown Road near Center Grove High School.

The committee will come up with a new plan, which will lay out where residents say homes should be built, where businesses are needed and where they should or should not be built, and which areas previously zoned for residential development should be switched to commercial development.

That plan will then go to the county planning department and the county commissioners to approve it being included in the overall comprehensive plan. Planning officials then would use that information when developers want to build.

Once the work is done, the committee will disband, Hittle said. The creation of the committee and the work to reassess the Center Grove area has no timetable, he said.

Under Indiana law, county boards and government officials that are asked to approve new developments, such as a subdivision or a shopping center, have to follow the county’s comprehensive plan. That plan lays out the zoning of specific areas, saying whether the land can be used for residential development, commercial or industrial businesses or agricultural and conservation purposes.

Nearly the entire Center Grove area, from State Road 135 to State Road 37 between Whiteland Road and County Line Road, is zoned for residential development. So even if residents think a spot would be a prime location for shops or restaurants and local businesses, it can’t be built there. That’s why the county planning department wants to update the plan.

As Hittle put it: “This is for the county planning department — we need a better tool. The whole idea is developing a plan that is driven by the community and not by the county.”

The county plans to conduct public hearings so each voice and every idea is heard. So it is vital that area residents speak up, offer suggestions and point out problems or pitfalls.

With limited areas designated for commercial development, shopping and dining options for Center Grove area residents are limited. But updating the area’s zoning map, could help spur new business.

But the county needs to hear from residents to find out exactly what they want and where.

At issue

Few areas designated for commercial development limit options for Center Grove area residents.

Our point

Updating the area’s zoning map could help spur new business.