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City officials seeking answers for traffic woes

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Greenwood can’t block a proposed Walmart store near a busy Center Grove area intersection but can require the retailer to do something about the heavy traffic near the site, city officials said.

Mayor Mark Myers and Greenwood City Council President J. David Hopper both said the city could do little to prevent the Arkansas-based retailer from building a superstore near State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road despite multiple complaints from residents.

White River Township residents rose up about a decade ago to defeat a proposed Walmart store at the same location. But this time the 14.8-acre site is zoned for exactly the type of store that

Wal-Mart Stores wants to build, Myers said.

“I’ve gotten several calls about them coming here, but they’ve picked a site where they have the zoning,” Myers said. “There’s little the city can do.”

The plan commission rejected two Walmart store proposals about a decade ago because they would have required annexation and rezoning property in the neighboring Shepherd’s Grove subdivision from residential to commercial.

This time, Wal-Mart Stores wants to build a 152,434-square-foot supercenter near the southwest corner of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, where the land already is zoned for a commercial development.

The site is the same as where the retailer had planned a store in 2004, but the new proposal is for a store smaller than the 210,000-square-foot one it originally proposed.

Normally, Wal-Mart Stores would need city planners to approve only a site plan, or a detailed design for the store, parking lot and drainage, community development services director Mark Richards said. But in this case, the Greenwood Plan Commission decided to suspend its normal rules and approve the site plan itself.

The board could require the retail giant to make improvements to nearby roads, plant more landscaping or commit to using higher quality building materials. The city could require tall fences or trees between the proposed store and the neighboring Shepherds Grove subdivision, so residents don’t have to deal with as much noise and light.

White River Township residents, however, shouldn’t expect that they can put a stop to the store, Hopper said.

“My understanding is that (officials’) hands are sort of tied,” he said. “They really can’t say no.”

The commission has no alternative other than to approve the Walmart store as long as it conforms with zoning and city rules, Richards said.

That board will mainly review what sort of requirements to impose on Wal-Mart Stores. For instance, it could make the retailer responsible for upgrading Smith Valley Road and State Road 135 near the site to handle the added traffic.

Wal-Mart Stores has proposed paying to align Restin Road with an entrance into Home Depot and putting a stoplight at Restin and Smith Valley roads.

Greenwood, however, is doing its own traffic study and trying to determine what improvements should be made to the roads, Myers said. Potential options include adding turn lanes and installing raised medians along both Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, so drivers can’t dart in front of several lanes of traffic to reach an entrance.

The site plan for the store is expected to come up for consideration sometime in the next 60 days, Richards said.

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