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Sewers key to puzzle of I-69

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A future Interstate 69 exit in Johnson County has the potential to become a new business park, but first two communities need to decide how to get sewer service to the area and what they want to be built there.

The intersection of State Road 37, planned to become Interstate 69, and State Road 144 is set to become one of the first interchanges south of Indianapolis once I-69 is extended through the area. A start date for the interstate project is years away, but local planning departments already expect the exit will become a hotspot for development.

But before businesses start building near the proposed exit, Bargersville and Morgan County will have to figure out how to provide sewer service to the area and decide what kind of development they want.

The intersection is located in Johnson County, but travel about a quarter-mile west on State Road 144 or less than a mile south on State Road 37 and you’ve crossed into Morgan County.

Road ahead

The exit: State Road 37 is slated to eventually become Interstate 69 in the area, and the intersection with State Road 144 in Johnson County will become one of the first exits south of Indianapolis.

The plan: Bargersville and Morgan County expect the area around the exit could become a hotspot for development, bringing in office buildings and industry around the interstate.

The issues: The two communities will need to figure out how to provide sewer service to the area as well as work together to plan zoning and development guidelines.

The communities have similar visions of the surrounding area becoming more than just an off-ramp surrounded by truck stops and instead picture office buildings and industrial complexes. Officials haven’t met yet to discuss exactly what they want and where they’d like it, and the two communities will have to address one major factor — sewers — before any kind of development can begin.

“One of the issues, there is water, but there are not sewers in that area. Before development could really happen in that area, we’d need that,” Bargersville Town Council President Rowana Umbarger said.

The intersection is about six miles from Bargersville’s wastewater plant, making running sewer lines to the intersection not feasible, Umbarger said. A new treatment plant would need to be built, and she expects the town and Morgan County to partner on the plant’s construction and operation, she said.

Sewers are key for attracting development, Morgan County planning and zoning director Kenny Hale said.

“You’ve got to get that. Once you get it, they’re going to come. Until you get it, you can’t handle anything out there,” he said.

Officials from the two communities have discussed the issue but haven’t settled on any plan about what would be built, how much it would cost and who would maintain it.

Once sewers are provided, both communities expect the interstate exit will be an attractive site for businesses.

Officials want to have similar zoning and development guidelines between Johnson and Morgan counties, so that the types of buildings and businesses built in each county fit together and don’t conflict.

“If you put an industrial zoning classification next to some kind of commercial or light residential you’re going to have a problem. We’ve got to work together,” Hale said.

Umbarger expects the interchange has the potential to be more than just gas stations, fast food restaurants and truck stops and sees the chance for a business park. Morgan County developers have a similar picture for the area.

“I think probably commercial that blends into some high-tech or maybe some office type of situations. The business park could also be a prime spot for logistics. We always think of big warehouses and things, and I think it would lend itself to that,” Morgan County Development Corp. executive director Joy McCarthy-Sessing said.

The next step is to form agreements in order to address a plan to bring sewers to the area and to set zoning guidelines, Hale said.

Those talks haven’t happened yet because the last phase of the I-69 project from Martinsville to Indianapolis might not be started for another five or six years, Hale said.

But working with another county can make the process take longer.

Morgan County teamed with Hendricks County to work on development on Westpoint Business Park, which straddles the border of those counties, and Hale said reaching all the agreements took about a year — twice as long as what was originally expected.

“You’ve got to get everybody on the same page and everybody to agree to every word,” Hale said.

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