Downed trees halt Goodwill project

Construction on a new Goodwill warehouse and outlet store in Greenwood is on hold after crews cut down too many trees.

After months of negotiating between Goodwill and city officials, a warehouse and outlet center was approved to be built on Emerson Avenue early this year.

In order to build the warehouse, Goodwill agreed to multiple guidelines and requirements, including using high-quality building materials, limiting the number of truck docks and paying full property taxes, instead of claiming an exemption since it is a nonprofit organization.

Goodwill also had to agree to preserve a tree line on the south end of their property. The tree line separates the warehouse from about five businesses, including a sleep center, and was included in a landscaping plan approved by city officials in February. Last week, Greenwood City Council members and neighboring business owners called Mayor Mark Myers in a panic: The tree line had been removed.

Construction crews cut down at least seven more trees than had been included in the landscaping plan. Goodwill officials said the trees had to go to make room for a new drain pipe.

With the extra trees cut down, the tree line that served as a buffer between Goodwill and the businesses was gone.

That was especially a concern for the nearby sleep center, since Goodwill’s loading docks would be on the south side of the building and could disrupt the clinic.

That day, the mayor pulled the company’s construction permits, meaning it immediately had to stop any excavation work on the property. And it can’t start construction again until a new landscaping plan, showing what would be done to create a sound barrier between the warehouse and the neighboring businesses, is approved.

“I’m disappointed that we worked hard to reach this agreement, and then they destroyed that tree line,” Greenwood council member Linda Gibson said.

Within the past week, Gibson and three other city council members talked to Myers about the tree line getting cut down. Gibson wanted to protect the businesses that are already up and running, like the sleep center, which is why so many caveats were included in Goodwill’s building plans, she said.

To have Goodwill break those agreements is a big disappointment, she said.

“It just puts everyone in a very difficult position,” Gibson said. “How do we take care of the sleep center that’s behind them?”

The trees had to be cut down in order to install a stormwater drain pipe, said Cindy Graham, Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana’s vice president of marketing. Although Goodwill had mapped out which trees needed to be preserved, the construction crew cut down more trees than initially stated in the landscaping plan, Graham said.

“We knew a significant number of the trees had to be removed,” Graham said.

Under a new landscaping plan, Goodwill will plant trees on a mound to create a physical barrier between the businesses. It also will plant two trees for every one removed, which was included in the original plan.

“When it’s all said and done, we’re going to get more trees, and we’re going to get a better looking buffer area,” Graham said.

Despite having more trees planted, that will not adequately reduce the noise from Goodwill, since trees will be smaller and shorter for the first decade after they’re planted, Gibson said.

“But now if you go back and put smaller trees in there, even with a mound, they’re not going to do nearly the job buffering the sound nor the sight,” Gibson said.

If Goodwill wants to get back to work, a new landscaping plan will have to be approved by the board of zoning appeals, Greenwood planning director Bill Peeples said.

The new plan will be submitted Monday, Graham said.

Goodwill’s new warehouse is slated to open in the first quarter of next year, Graham said, but that is dependent on weather.