Group pushing to make Center Grove a town

The unincorporated area of Center Grove in Johnson County could become a town if its 29,000 residents can convince local officials to approve the plan by the end of the year.

Citizens for Center Grove, a not-for-profit leading the effort, is set to present its proposal for the new town at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Center Grove Schools administration building.

The group has hired Indianapolis public accounting firm H.J. Umbaugh and Associates to study tax rates, which will be presented at the meeting.

It hopes to present a final proposal in July to county commissioners, who could vote on the plan within the following 90 days. The proposal would need approval from two of the three commissioners in order for Center Grove to become a town.

If successful, a town of Center Grove would be one of the largest towns in central Indiana, with a population greater than Zionsville, Plainfield, Brownsburg and Avon.  

Jody Veldkamp, a leader of the not-for-profit who has lived in the Center Grove area since 1992, said incorporation would enable residents to better control the 22.5 square miles that would comprise the town.

“What you tend to see happening is that the commercial corridor is being taken,” he said.

Veldkamp is referring to State Road 135, much of which has been annexed by Greenwood and Bargersville.

State Road 37, which also runs through the Center Grove area, is part of the Interstate 69 expansion proposal linking Evansville to Indianapolis, which could provide future commercial development, Veldkamp said.
The Center Grove area is bounded by Greenwood to the east, Bargersville to the south, County Line Road to the north and Morgan County to the west.

One potential roadblock to the incorporation is whether it can gain approval from Greenwood city officials, though Veldkamp anticipates that will occur. Because Greenwood is a city, it has the right to prohibit any town from incorporating within 3 miles of its border, according to state law.

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers could not be reached for comment Monday morning.

Veldkamp’s group wants to incorporate as a town instead of a city because the only requirement would be the election of a five-person town council and clerk-treasurer.

If successful, the town would contract with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department to provide police protection, which it already does. Fire protection would be provided by the existing White River Township Fire Department. Other necessary utilities already are in place, Veldkamp said.

The town would begin collecting tax money in January 2014, which would provide enough time to get organized and to hold an election in November 2013.

In the Indianapolis metro area, the last unincorporated area to become a town was Avon in 1995.

Incorporations, in fact, are quite rare, said Matt Greller, executive director and CEO of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. The group receives about five inquiries a year about the process, but new towns or cities only pop up about every five years, he said.

The biggest obstacle is money, said Greller, who coincidentally is a resident of the Center Grove area. His organization does not provide opinions on incorporations but simply guides organizers through the process.

“These come up in areas that are primarily residential, and a residential tax base usually doesn’t cut it,” he said. “That being said, I think the potential for that type of [commercial] tax base [in Center Grove] is there.”

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