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Will Walmart traffic be too much?


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Residents of a Center Grove area subdivision are concerned that once a Walmart store is built nearby, motorists will use their neighborhood streets as a detour for traffic and backups they say the new store will bring.

A store has been proposed west of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, which residents and motorists say already is a busy intersection with 15,000 cars per day traveling Smith Valley Road, west of State Road 135. To help with traffic, Greenwood is requiring Walmart to pay for a new median on Smith Valley Road west of State Road 135, which is meant to stop left turns into nearby stores and home driveways, and to add a right-turn lane at the intersection.

But residents who live in Carefree South, located just north of where the new store is planned, believe motorists will instead turn into their neighborhood and use the curvy roads to bypass the intersection and the traffic.

 

Walmart addressed the worries of residents living in Shepherds Grove, a neighborhood that borders the new store location and was recently annexed into the city, including noise and light coming from the new store, residents said. But residents who live in Carefree South worry their concerns won’t be addressed because they don’t live within city limits.

City officials said the road work Walmart is paying for is meant to help traffic move more smoothly and prevent backups in and around the intersection.

Members of the Greenwood Plan Commission voted 8-0 to approve the plans for the new Walmart property and road improvements. The store fits with the zoning where the company plans to build, so the commission had no choice but to approve the plans unless they could prove the designs did not meet city rules, city attorney Shawna Koons said.

The Greenwood Board of Public Works and Safety and the Indiana Department of Transportation must give final approvals to the planned road work before construction can start. The company’s next step would be to hire contractors and begin building the store, said Dan Kuester, a civil design consultant for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Construction is expected to begin this fall and should take about one year, he said.

The road upgrades the company has committed to make are all on the west side of State Road 135 and the south side of Smith Valley Road. Residents of Carefree South, located west of State Road 135 and north of Smith Valley Road, don’t think the changes will help them.

The new median and turn lane should keep traffic moving, planning commissioner Phil Tinkle said.

“You’re not going to eliminate traffic, but you are going to eliminate congestion,” he said.

The road changes will push traffic farther west of State Road 135 and make it more difficult for residents of the Carefree South subdivision to get out of their neighborhood, residents said.

Motorists already cut through the neighborhood to avoid traffic, resident Tim Settles said.

More vehicles would take shortcuts to avoid the stoplights and traffic on State Road 135 when the store attracts more cars and the median eliminates left turns, he said.

“The only way I would be OK with that is if you could completely block off our intersection,” resident Paige Robbins said.

Currently, getting out of the subdivision from streets that open onto Smith Valley Road takes at least 10 minutes at certain times of the day, she said. Motorists headed to Walmart would take shortcuts through the neighborhood to skip the stoplights, she said.

Motorists already drive through Rick Shimp’s front yard and force him to wait about 15 minutes to get out of his driveway, he said. Shimp, who lives on Smith Valley Road outside Carefree South subdivision, is worried the traffic would make it harder to sell his house, he said.

“I’m stuck in a house I can’t sell residentially,” he said.

A city neighborhood that initially opposed the store has worked with the retailer to deal with residents’ concerns, said Donna Cale, president of the Shepherds Grove homeowners association.

The Shepherds Grove subdivision borders the Walmart property. Walmart worked with the homeowners association to alleviate worries without involving the city, said planning director Ed Ferguson.

Walmart will build a concrete wall 10 to 11 feet high between the store property and Shepherds Grove for privacy and as a noise barrier and will shade outside lights so they don’t shine onto other properties, said Joe Calderon, an attorney representing the retailer.

“If they do the things on their commitment sheet here, we have no problems with them coming into our area,” Cale said.

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