White River area to revamp route

In the next 15 years, a key east-west route in the White River Township area is expected to see more motorists every day and be a key route to and from Interstate 69.

Having homes along Smith Valley Road won’t really make sense then, county officials said.

Instead, they envision a commercial corridor with shopping centers and smaller shops and buildings. And they want to lay out that plan now so that when developers come looking to be closer to the future route of I-69, the county will be ready.

Residents and county officials are meeting to revamp the Johnson County comprehensive plan, which lays out suggestions and assumptions of what the county will look like in 20 years. When the comprehensive plan was adopted in 2011, White River Township was listed as a massive residential area, with few commercial spots, said David Hittle, the director of planning and zoning for Johnson County.

But residents should expect more commercial development, especially now that State Road 37 was picked as the route for the last leg of I-69, which will connect Martinsville to Interstate 465 in Indianapolis, Hittle said.

Eventually, county officials want to widen Smith Valley Road from two to four lanes from State Road 37 to State Road 135, according to the plan. The county doesn’t have a timeline for when that project could be done, but if and when the road is expanded, residents who live along Smith Valley Road will have a tougher time getting out of their driveways and could lose land to the widening project.

“As the road widens, the residential viability of those homes is going to be very much compromised,” Hittle said. “The question is: what do we do with them?”

Residents who live along Smith Valley Road are split on whether to create more commercial opportunities or if it should be kept as a residential area, some said at a meeting this week.

In some sections of the proposed plan, county officials suggest turning busier intersections, such as Morgantown and Smith Valley roads and Peterman and Smith Valley roads, into a commercial area. Sections of homes along Smith Valley Road could be turned into shopping centers or converted into office space, Hittle said.

For example, a section of fewer than 20 homes between Paddock Road and Sutton Drive could be turned into a shopping center similar to Sugar Grove Shoppes, near Hiatt Avenue and Smith Valley Road, Hittle said.

Marjorie Vandiver’s home, which is between Smith Valley Baptist Church and Windsong Estates on Smith Valley Road, was not included in the expanded commercial area, according to the proposed updates to the comprehensive plan. But she and her husband Marc Vandiver asked that they and their neighbors be included, they said.

“It’s going to happen,” Marjorie Vandiver said. “You can’t fight progress. They’re going to widen the street whether we want them to or not, so we might as well get on board with the plan.”

While the Vandivers don’t anticipating moving out of their home of 28 years anytime soon, they expect the neighborhood will become more commercialized in the future, Marjorie Vandiver said.

“We’re going to stay as long as we can,” she said. “If someone wants to buy us for commercial property, absolutely, we’ll sell.”

Business owner Dale Bronson, who runs Bronson’s Garage and Welding near the intersection of Morgantown and Smith Valley roads, wants additional businesses near his shop, he said. His business has been surrounded by vacant lots for years, he said.

But residents, including Bronson, wondered why the county purchased land decades ago from properties lining Smith Valley Road then never expanded the roadway, he said.

“They took half-an-acre from me to widen the road back 25 years ago,” Bronson said. “If they had bought it now, I would have made more money.”

Because the road has not been widened, Bronson also has had to maintain the land by mowing the property, even though the county purchased it, he said.

The steering committee will continue to meet to discuss what residents want in White River Township, such as connectivity between roads and trails, Hittle said.

Feedback helps determine what will be best for the area in the future, Johnson County Commissioner Ron West said.

Updates to the comprehensive plan will need to be approved by the county plan commission. Hittle expects a vote on the changes later this year, he said.

Updates to the comprehensive plan

A steering committee of about 20 people are looking into updating the White River Township portion of the Johnson County comprehensive plan. Here’s a look at the main areas the steering committee wants to update:

– Smith Valley Road

– Morgantown Road

– How State Road 37 and surrounding areas will be impacted by Interstate 69

– Looking at housing density toward the southern end of White River Township

– Connectivity for roads and walking or hiking trails

SOURCE: David Hittle, Johnson County Director of Planning and Zoning

If you go

The steering committee hosts monthly meetings about updates for the comprehension plan. Here’s where and when they meet:

Where: Center Grove Educational Service Center, 4800 Stones Crossing Road, Greenwood

When: 7 p.m., second Tuesday of every month; next meeting is May 10


The Johnson County Department of Planning and Zoning is asking for residents to write in support or against the comprehensive plan amendments. Letters or emails can be sent to:

David Hittle, director, dhittle@co.johnson.in.us

Desiree Calderella, senior planner, dcalderella@co.johnson.in.us