Finding a compromise between space for business while also maintaining a rural atmosphere is the goal of a proposed update to the county’s development plan for the Center Grove area.

With construction of the final Interstate 69 section coming, the county is considering how that will impact a community of about 25,000 just west of where that major thoroughfare will be created in 2022. Smith Valley Road, which cuts through the northern half of White River Township, is also set for an expansion, doubling from two lanes to four.

The county is seeking input from residents of what they want their community to look like going forward. After receiving input from the public, the committee in charge of the plans will meet several more times before bringing the plan to the county plan commission and board of commissioners for final approval early next year.

While residents have clamored to have more restaurants, shops and businesses closer to their homes, the Center Grove area is almost completely zoned as residential. The county doesn’t have a set plan of where new businesses should be located.

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Based on public feedback so far, residents want to see the area along Smith Valley Road recommended for commercial use, Johnson County Planning and Zoning Director David Hittle said.

However, instead of designating all of Smith Valley Road to be open to commercial developers, county officials have proposed allocating a portion of land for commercial use, Hittle said. That includes a section from Paddock Road to just west of Runyon Road, including the intersection of Smith Valley and Morgantown roads. Another possibility is near the intersection of Old Smith Valley and Morgantown roads.

The county won’t rezone the land now, but rezoning will be recommended in the plan so if a request from a developer comes to the county, it will likely be approved, Hittle said.

Nada Phoenix and her husband, who live near the intersection of Peterman and Smith Valley roads, want their property to be open for commercial development.

Once Smith Valley Road expands, the added southern lane would be at their doorstep, Phoenix said.

Getting onto the road from their driveway is already difficult, and with a larger road and increased traffic, it makes more sense to look to sell and leave, Phoenix said.

The plan also addresses how a rural atmosphere that is more common in the southern portion of the township would be maintained.

The northern sections of the Center Grove area will be primarily designated for higher density housing, or neighborhoods, whereas the southern end will remain the most open.

Bonnie Meehan, who lives on a 10-acre lot in the southwest portion of unincorporated White River Township on Stones Crossing Road, appreciates the move to retain more rural areas.

She wants to continue to farm on a property she has lived on for about three decades. Her major concern was with her home remaining in a rural setting, Meehan said.

The development plan update wouldn’t make any changes to her land, Meehan said.

County planners have rejected plans for housing subdivisions in the southern Center Grove area in the past, and getting that put into writing for the comprehensive plan would firm up that policy going forward, Hittle said.

If you go

What: An open house to discuss the propose updates to the Johnson County Comprehensive Plan for the White River Township area.

When: 3-7 p.m. Oct. 20

Where: White River Township Trustee’s Office, 2929 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2702.