Group seeks action with historic homes ahead of planned Interstate 69 work

With a proposed Interstate 69 route coming close to a five-home historic neighborhood in the Center Grove area, the state and a historic preservation agency disagree about whether a buffer should be added to separate the homes from the interstate.

The Travis Hill neighborhood was constructed in the 1960s on the south side of Stones Crossing Road, just east of State Road 37. The four ranch-style homes and one A-Frame home stand as an example of some of the earlier home development in White River Township and is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the historic property report prepared as part of the plans for the new I-69.

The final portion of I-69 is set to run along State Road 37 less than a half-mile west of these homes. Work to prepare for the new interstate includes changes in elevation to the section of Stones Crossing Road which approaches the future interstate, I-69 project manager Sarah Rubin said.

Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit preservation agency, filed a request for the Indiana Department of Transportation to adjust some of its plans for work near the neighborhood and consider planting vegetative barriers. The nonprofit agency is automatically involved in any state or federal highway projects where historic properties could be adversely impacted.

After a required review of all of the designated and potential historic areas along the proposed I-69 route, the Federal Highway Administration determined in February that the Travis Hill site would not suffer due to the new interstate, Rubin said. Now, a third agency will have to settle the disagreement.

A property can be adversely affected if the road changes cause issues with noise, traffic or line-of-sight, which INDOT doesn’t believe will be the case with the Travis Hill area, Rubin said.

Indiana Landmarks, which has reviewed INDOT’s plans, has said it disagrees with INDOT’s assessment, based on proposed changes in elevation to Stones Crossing Road and the potential removal of trees and other vegetation as part of that work.

“The change to the approach will have an adverse effect on the district insofar as it will alter the character of its setting,” Indiana Landmark community preservation specialist Sam Burgess wrote in a letter to INDOT.

To offset the impact of the changes, additional trees should be planted on the along Stones Crossing Road, he said.

Now, it’s up to another agency to decide whether Indiana Landmark’s recommendation will be included in the final plans for I-69, Burgess said.

“We don’t have a final say on what is done,” he said. “We’re here to offer feedback and recommendations and hope those will be taken into account.”

A final decision will be made later this month by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a federal agency that reviews compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act, Rubin said.

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