When Lola Grider and her husband Jerry first purchased a home in the Center Grove area, they would wake up each morning to a view of cornfields across the road.
Much has changed on Smith Valley Road in the five decades since.
Gone are the rows of corn. In their place stands a row of businesses in the Sugar Grove Shoppes strip mall. A grocery store, spa and restaurants and other businesses have since taken up residence.
The sound of cars zooming down the road is dampened inside the Grider’s home to the point where it becomes barely noticeable once the windows and doors are shut. Step outside during the morning or evening commutes and its hard to have a conversation on the porch.
Story continues below gallery
Proposed changes to Johnson County’s development plan call for an expansion of the areas where businesses, shops and restaurants are allowed to be built on Smith Valley Road. County officials envision the Morgantown and Smith Valley Road intersection as a central area for new commercial development.
Precipitating the change is the future construction of Interstate 69 along the current State Road 37. Construction of the portion of the interstate that will bisect the northwest corner of Johnson County is slated for 2022.
An interchange is planned at Smith Valley Road. The county plans to widen Smith Valley road from two to four lanes from Interstate 69 to the Greenwood city limits.
At only two lanes, Smith Valley Road isn’t close to being prepared for the amount of traffic that will come with a new interstate, Johnson County Planning and Zoning Director David Hittle said.
But widening the road will mean cutting into the front lawns of many of the residents whose homes line Smith Valley Road from State Road 37 to State Road 135.
“We don’t want it to happen, but it is going to happen whether we want it to or not,” Lola Grider said.
The county already took a chunk of the front yard of the couple’s home when the road was last widened, she said. The county didn’t use all the land it took then, leaving room for more lanes to be added.
Most of the right-of-way the county needs for the road expansion already has been acquired, Hittle said.
When two more lanes area added, the pavement would come nearly to their front door, Lola Grider said.
“It’s a good area,” Jerry Grider said. “It’s kind of a shame that they are going to do it.”
The Griders’ plan: Stay in their home until they can’t anymore.
“We’d like to stay here until we leave this earth,” Lola Grider said.
The couple has been hearing about the proposed road changes for several years. But since the project may not begin until 2022 or later, they are content to wait and see what happens.
County officials don’t have a set date for when Smith Valley Road will expand. The county will need to determine how the project will be funded and what timeline fits best with the I-69 construction, Hittle said.
If the road expansion does come to pass while they still live in their home, the Griders’ plan is to sell their home and rent an apartment or move in with their children.
With zoning changes the county plans to recommend, selling may not be too difficult. Land around the Morgantown and Smith Valley road intersection is already zoned commercial. Proposed changes to the county’s development plan recommend an additional commercial zone to the west to Paddock Road and east almost to Runyon Road.
The area would remain residential for now, but if businesses purchased the property, requests to rezone would likely be approved.
“It is the market forces that dictate what happens,” Hittle said.
He doesn’t foresee new business construction until after the Smith Valley Road widening.
When deciding where commercial zoning should be recommended, one factor the county considered is what homes would be affected the most by the additional lanes, Hittle said.
In a draft of the development plan, the county has several recommendations in place to minimize the impact on residents. Businesses should not bring in heavy daily traffic, and they should serve the immediate area rather than being a regional draw. Rezoning should be done in larger chunks, rather than piecemeal with one property at a time. Lighting should be fully shielded.
The county has been seeking input on its development plan, which impacts not only the Smith Valley Road area, but all of the Center Grove area, for the past year. Several more meetings are scheduled before the plan goes before the county commissioners for approval early next year.
Smaller front lawns and zoning changes won’t be the only challenge Smith Valley Road residents face. Even residents who have lawn space to spare will have to deal with the increased traffic and the extra noise.
The home Doug Johnson bought five years ago was built in 2000 and is offset a couple dozen feet further from Smith Valley Road than many of the older homes.
His son has a bedroom facing the street on the second floor, but never has the window open at night because of traffic noise, he said.
One of the main challenges Johnson faces with the road is just getting on it in the first place.
Johnson gets home from work about 4:30 p.m., and he knows if he wants to leave his home, he is better off waiting until after 6:30 p.m. because the traffic is so heavy.
Getting on to Smith Valley Road can be a challenge for drivers in homes or at certain intersections, he said.
Johnson said the road widening isn’t likely to make him want to move. His house is on the furthest property to the east where commercial zoning would be recommended.
Other proposed commercial zoning recommendations for Smith Valley Road include small areas where it intersects with Peterman Road and near the railroad crossing just west of the Greenwood city limits.
For one resident along Smith Valley Road, the future changes to the area have their pros and cons. Jerry Lucero said he is not looking forward to the road being widened, but his property could also become more valuable.
What: An open house to discuss the propose updates to the Johnson County Comprehensive Plan for the White River Township area.
When: 3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 20
Where: White River Township Trustee’s Office, 2929 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood