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Interchange plan greeted warmly

An engineering firm’s vision of how to develop the Interstate 64 Lanesville interchange got a better reception last week from the public than the negative comments residents voiced at an August meeting to gather input for the study.
Birch Trautwein & Mims of Louisville was hired by the Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission to conduct a study of a 10-square-mile radius of the interchange. At a special meeting of the plan commission at the Harrison County Court House on Thursday night, the firm made its final presentation, which could be accepted or amended as early as next month.
The interchange, possibly the only one in Indiana that exits onto a county road rather than a state road or another interstate, has remained undeveloped since I-64 opened in the early 1970s, mostly due to lack of a wastewater treatment plant or sewers.
“We spent a long time on this plan,” said Larry Ott, a plan commission member whose home is located within the study area. “We’re down to the nitty-gritty now.”
In developing a plan, Phil Bills, a former Harrison County resident and past plan commission member, said Birch Trautwein considered several items, including traffic counts.
The firm recommends building a connector road between the interchange and S.R. 64 to the north. The new road would alleviate traffic at the heavily congested Georgetown interchange.
Study results recommend that the immediate area around the interchange be used as a “highway service” area, which typically includes businesses such as service stations and restaurants.
The next tier would be for “employment centers” where businesses, possibly offices, would be located.
From there, the firm recommended residential platted subdivisions, possibly with one-half-to-two-acre lots. The outer tier should be more rural residential areas, with larger acreage.
“One thing that’s critical now as land is developed is protection of greenways,” Bills said. “We recommending greenway corridors … to help protect the streams to keep them from being degraded.”
Birch Trautwein also strongly recommended that the study area be designated a planned unit development (PUD).
Businessman Jerry Cook said that the PUD “seems the way to go” because it allows more scrutiny of a proposed project by the local planners.
Bills agreed.
“As a developer, I don’t see a downside (to the PUD). It’s a real benefit … To me there’s nothing but positives for going with the PUD around the interchange,” he said.
Harrison County plan administrator Terry Smith called the PUD concept “a win-win” situation for the county.
Lanesville resident Don Hamblen was also pleased with the study results.
“I think you’ve got a pretty decent workable plan,” he said. He calls the Lanesville interchange “the gateway to Harrison County.
“That’s why it’s important to have a plan to keep it looking that way,” he said.
The study is available for viewing on the Internet at www.netpointe.com/users/harrison/planman
“Whether we ever see (the interchange) like this in 50 years, it gives you a model as such to plan from,” said plan commission member J.R. Eckart, who represents the Harrison County Commissioners.
“It shows that Harrison County wants to take a positive step into the 21st century,” said Victor McCauley, a member of the interchange study committee.
Pete Schickel of Lanesville, who said a public hearing was held in 1972 in the same room as Thursday night’s meeting, called the study “one of the best investments” made by the plan commission.
“I think it looks good,” he said. “We want to do it right, orderly and smart.”
Brian Fogle, the economic development director for the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, was “very pleasantly surprised” by the endorsement from the audience, given the negativity present at the Aug. 16 meeting.
“It seemed everyone understood and embraced what was being presented,” he said after the meeting. “There was an acknowledgement that something’s going to happen” in that area.
The Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission could take action on the firm’s recommendation at its next meeting, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Room of the county courthouse. Eric Wise, the county planner, said the plan commission could adopt or amend the proposal and send it on to the county commissioners.
“Basically, the hearing (Thursday) was the only mandated hearing that we had to have before adoption,” he said.
Ott said the public will have the opportunity at that time to ask more questions or make additional comments about the study results.

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