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Walmart back at once-rejected site

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to build a store on the vacant lot directly south of Home Depot on State Road 135 across from Super Target.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to build a store on the vacant lot directly south of Home Depot on State Road 135 across from Super Target. PHOTO BY SCOTT ROBERSON

A plan to build a Walmart store off State Road 135 in the Center Grove area has been revived.

Residents rallied against and defeated a similar proposal nearly a decade ago.

The Arkansas-based retail giant is back with a plan to build a smaller store at one of the locations considered in 2004.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. wants to build a 152,434-square-foot store near the southwest corner of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135. The store would be built on an undeveloped 14.8-acre lot just south of Home Depot and would be across the street from Super Target and less than a mile south of Meijer.

Project plans

What: 152,434-square-foot Walmart supercenter

Where: 882 S. State Road 135, on a 14.8-acre lot south of Home Depot at the southwest corner of State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road.

What it will include: Groceries, deli and a 6,612-square-foot enclosed garden center

Commission meeting

The Greenwood Plan Commission will consider how much parking Walmart should be required for a proposed Walmart store south of Home Depot near State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road.

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: City building, 2 N. Madison Ave.

What’s at issue: Whether Walmart can build a store with about 650 parking spaces, or about 100 fewer than what city rules require.

Alternative: Walmart has alternate plans for the site that would include 787 spaces, enough to meet the standard, but doesn’t want to put a parking lot behind the store.

The proposed store would be the third Walmart in Johnson County and the second in Greenwood. Walmart also has locations on U.S. 31 in Franklin and on County Line Road in Greenwood. The new store in White River Township would be smaller than those stores, which are both about 200,000 square feet, Greenwood planning director Ed Ferguson said.

Home Depot, Applebee’s, a child care center, a pharmacy and strip malls flank the location of the proposed store, which is zoned for commercial use and could be a strip mall if a big-box store weren’t built, Greenwood senior planner Bill Peeples said.

The Greenwood Plan Commission will consider Monday whether to allow the Walmart store to have about 100 fewer parking spaces than city rules require. If that is not approved, a parking lot would have to be built behind the store that would back up to the neighboring Shepherd’s Grove subdivision. The store will have either 654 or 787 parking spots, depending on what the plan commission decides.

The store also would need approval from the city’s technical review committee on construction plans, such as how much drainage would have to be installed, and from the board of public works and safety for construction bonds for the work Walmart plans to do. No other approvals are required.

Construction is planned to start in the spring.

The White River Township Walmart location would have groceries, a deli, and a 6,612-square-foot enclosed garden center, according to plans filed with the city. The new location would be smaller than the 212,000-square-foot store the company originally wanted to build in the Center Grove area in 2003 and the 210,000-square-foot store it has on Greenwood’s east side. A message left for the company’s corporate communications office was not returned.

The Walmart at County Line Road and Emerson Avenue, built eight years ago, was the most recent big-box store constructed in Greenwood, Peeples said.

Residents opposed plans

At the time, Wal-Mart Stores also tried to build a store in White River Township but met resistance from residents who were concerned about increased traffic and congestion. The retail giant first tried to build a supercenter at State Road 135 and Olive Branch Road and then looked about a mile north at the Smith Valley Road intersection.

Hundreds of residents packed meetings at the Greenwood city building to oppose the store, and the plans for the Walmart store were withdrawn in 2005. The company said at the time that it couldn’t squeeze a store onto the 14.8-acre site south of Home Depot, and that any store built at that location would be too small.

“It’s been eight years, and things change. The corporate model has shifted, and they’re now putting in smaller stores in some locations,” Peeples said.

Greenwood and the Indiana Department of Transportation need to review what traffic improvements would have to be made to the intersection to handle the increased traffic from the new store, Peeples said.

The city would review whether a stoplight, added turn lanes and a median are needed to keep drivers from darting across six lanes of speeding traffic to get between Target and Walmart, he said.

“We don’t want to see T-bone accidents,” he said. “Putting in a median could stop that and hopefully save a few lives.”

Medians are needed on both State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road to prevent left turns that back up traffic, said White River Citizens United board member Simon Morse, who said he was not speaking on behalf of the group. The intersection already is badly congested, and another left-turn lane onto State Road 135 or other improvements may be necessary, he said.

Greenwood’s technical review committee will determine what would be required before building a store, Peeples said.

AF Engineering, a consultant that Wal-Mart Stores hired, estimated that vehicles would enter and leave the store’s parking lot about 7,500 times a day. The firm recommended that an access road to Home Depot off Smith Valley Road be aligned with Restin Road across the street, so that a stoplight could be installed.

Nearby residents worry that a stoplight could cause even more traffic problems, since it would only be a block from the stoplight at Smith Valley Road and State Road 135.

Traffic a major concern

A new Walmart store presents a number of concerns, including traffic, crime, noise and light pollution, said resident Ruth Hansen, who lives in the neighboring Shepherd’s Grove subdivision.

She was concerned that the Walmart parking lot would be a magnet for crime since the stores are often open 24 hours a day. She feared the store also could bring more noise to what’s now a quiet area.

But the biggest concern is traffic, since a Walmart is sure to bring more cars and rumbling semitrailer trucks, Hansen said.

She already sometimes has to wait through two or three red lights to get through the intersection at State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road and fears the delay could be much worse if a Walmart were attracting shoppers from around the area.

“We already have trouble getting out onto Smith Valley Road,” she said. “You can’t get out to make a left-hand turn.”

White River Township Advisory Board member Greg Rainbolt said traffic already backs up at State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road, particularly for drivers headed east on Smith Valley Road. Drivers routinely get stuck through a few light changes, and the traffic to another big store will worsen the congestion, he said.

“It gets pretty tied up at certain times of the day with the growth in that area,” he said. “An entrance to another big-box store wouldn’t help. Imagine if you have people going to both Target and Walmart.”

Greenwood should do something to improve traffic on Smith Valley Road before letting Walmart build, Shepherd’s Grove Homeowners Association president Donna Cale said.

People who shop at Home Depot on the weekend sit and wait for traffic to let up enough so they can turn onto Smith Valley Road. Shepherd’s Grove residents have to drive up State Road 135 to shop for groceries, go to doctor’s appointments and make other trips and already have a hard time getting out onto the highway, Cale said.

Approvals needed for Walmart construction plans

Wal-Mart can build a store on commercially zoned land at State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road but will have to get its construction plans approved by the city. Here’s a look at the approvals needed:

Plan commission: The commission will decide whether the city can relax its parking requirement by about 100 spaces, so Wal-Mart doesn’t have to build a parking lot behind the store, where there is no entrance.

Technical review committee: The committee will have to approve construction plans, such as how much drainage would have to be installed and where it would go.

Board of public works: The board must approve construction bonds for work Wal-Mart plans to do, such as installing sidewalks and digging a rainwater-collection pond or underground drainage tank.

City council: The council does not get to vote on the store, and the city does not have discretion over whether to allow it since the property already is zoned for a big-box store.

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