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Editorial: Governments can work together to help growth

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In his poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost writes: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

This expression, taken from an old English proverb, often is misinterpreted to mean that’s it best to build a wall between you and your neighbor. In fact, it refers to two property owners working together along their shared boundary. In the course of their work — in this case repairing a wall, stone by stone — they strengthen their relationship as they toil together for a common good.

This phrase was brought to mind by the recent announcement that Greenwood and Bargersville would work together to see that major development along a section of State Road 135 would not die aborning due to fractious squabbling over sewer lines.

Not long ago, Greenwood and Bargersville were involved in a bitter dispute that reached the state supreme court over annexation plans and who was to supply sewer service to which areas. Now they have reached an agreement that will mean vacant land along State Road 135 soon could be ripe for development because the cost to connect to the sewer system will be drastically reduced.

Franciscan Alliance is buying about 20 acres at State Road 135 and Grove Crossing Boulevard in Greenwood for a possible new urgent care center and medical office buildings. A hangup has been a city rule requiring developers to hook their sewer lines to Greenwood’s system, even though Bargersville’s pipes are closer and within the city limits.

Greenwood’s sewer system is about one mile from the property and would be expensive to hook on to because a developer would have to build a new sewer main, rather than just connect to an existing one, Greenwood director of community development services Mark Richards said.

The area along State Road 135 has more than 1,000 undeveloped acres, and Greenwood doesn’t have the sewer pipes in place to handle the sewage from new development, such as the possible Franciscan Alliance project, Richards said. Existing buildings include homes, the Copper Chase apartments and The Hearth at Stones Crossing, but much of the land near State Road 135 and Stones Crossing Road is undeveloped.

Greenwood owns sewer lines on the west side of State Road 135, which is in Bargersville, and Bargersville has sewer lines on the east side in Greenwood, city attorney Krista Taggart said. As part of the swap of those sewer lines, Franciscan Alliance would be allowed to connect to Bargersville’s sewer system until Greenwood has a sewer main in the area.

Greenwood still hopes a developer will pay to extend sewer pipes near State Road 135 within the next few years, Richards said. A preliminary agreement between the city and town has Greenwood committing to build a sewer main in the area within the next two years.

Bargersville town manager Kevin McGinnis said the swap could be an opportunity to collaborate with Greenwood and improve a relationship strained by issues such as the annexation court battle that reached the Indiana Supreme Court and ended in 2011.

Now, the city and town are trying to come up with an agreement that would have Greenwood swapping sewer pipes with Bargersville so Greenwood properties are customers of the city’s sanitary sewer utility, and developers will be able to hook on to the city’s system more cheaply.

Part of the negotiations include allowing the town to continue to collect sewer fees from the customers it gives to Greenwood until the city builds its own sewer main, McGinnis said.

Making it easier to develop empty land in Greenwood along State Road 135 could benefit Bargersville as well. New businesses might bring more people to live in Bargersville.

“They have that rule, but they don’t have any sewer capacity. So you’re just stuck. Bargersville saw this as an opportunity to improve relationships between Bargersville and Greenwood,” McGinnis said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me for communities not to get along.”

We agree. State Road 135 is a prime commercial corridor. By cooperating, growth will be more orderly and appropriate and ultimately of benefit to both Greenwood and Bargersville.

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