Northeast Joco

Westwood debates towering concern

Updated: 2013-12-31T19:40:33Z

By SANGEETA SHASTRY

Special to The Star

A permit renewal for a Westwood broadcast facility and towers that have caused some concern among neighbors is slated to be discussed next week at a City Council meeting.

The property, located at 50th Street and Belinder Road, sits in what Westwood City Clerk Fred Sherman calls a “very low-intensity residential area.” Residents who voiced complaints about the property at a Nov. 4 Westwood Planning Commission public hearing said that they were “disappointed” with the property’s maintenance and that they wanted “better upkeep,” according to meeting minutes.

The chain-link fence that runs the property’s perimeter was specifically discussed.

Planning Commissioner Cami Savage agreed during the hearing with the neighbors’ concerns and suggested that renewal of the facility’s special use permit be made contingent upon property improvements, according to the minutes. The permit applies to unconventional land uses such as broadcast towers, airports or landfills, Sherman said.

After the hearing, commission members toured the property and passed their recommendations for improvements along to the City Council so it can approve or deny the permit.

The facility, which broadcasts AM radio stations KMBZ and KUDL, has been owned by Pennsylvania-based Entercom Communications since 1997, and its towers were built a few years before Westwood’s incorporation in 1949. The company, which is seeking a five-year permit renewal, was housed in a 15,000-square-foot office near the towers but moved in 2004 to a new facility in Prairie Village.

“The building’s not used every day,” Sherman said. “There are times a tree would fall down during storm events. Trash doesn’t get picked up quite like it would as if it was used. How can we make this property a little more compatible to the residential character of the community?”

Ken Wolf of Entercom in Kansas City noted at the hearing that the Federal Communications Commission requires fencing around guy-wired towers and connections at broadcast facilities. The Westwood broadcast property has perimeter fencing that surrounds four of its six connections. Sherman estimated that the 8-foot-tall fence, rusted in places and topped by barbed wire, is about 40 to 50 years old. Entercom inherited it when it purchased the property.

“The neighbors have had a lot of concerns and expressed some opinions about how it looks kind of blighted,” Sherman said.

The property has had its permit renewed multiple times over the years, the last of which was approved in 2008 when Entercom agreed to complete property improvements stipulated in the renewal process.

Dave Alpert, vice president and general manager of Entercom in Kansas City, said during the hearing that the company has published structural reports on the property every five years and safety reports every three years.

The structural integrity of the towers was analyzed in 2008, Sherman said, and, as a result, they underwent upgrades to make them comply with modern engineering standards. The community has had discussions over the years about more aesthetic building extensions and walking trails, he said, though such plans were never finalized.

Inclement weather has caused the towers to fall twice, once in 1938 and again in 1941. A teenager whom police believed to be trespassing died in 2008 after falling from one of the towers.

A permit renewal for a Westwood broadcast facility and towers that have caused some concern among neighbors is slated to be discussed next week at a City Council meeting.

The property, located at 50th Street and Belinder Road, sits in what Westwood City Clerk Fred Sherman calls a “very low-intensity residential area.” Residents who voiced complaints about the property at a Nov. 4 Westwood Planning Commission public hearing said that they were “disappointed” with the property’s maintenance and that they wanted “better upkeep,” according to meeting minutes.

The chain-link fence that runs the property’s perimeter was specifically discussed.

Planning Commissioner Cami Savage agreed during the hearing with the neighbors’ concerns and suggested that renewal of the facility’s special use permit be made contingent upon property improvements, according to the minutes. The permit applies to unconventional land uses such as broadcast towers, airports or landfills, Sherman said.

After the hearing, commission members toured the property and passed their recommendations for improvements along to the City Council so it can approve or deny the permit.

The facility, which broadcasts AM radio stations KMBZ and KUDL, has been owned by Pennsylvania-based Entercom Communications since 1997, and its towers were built a few years before Westwood’s incorporation in 1949. The company, which is seeking a five-year permit renewal, was housed in a 15,000-square-foot office near the towers but moved in 2004 to a new facility in Prairie Village.

“The building’s not used every day,” Sherman said. “There are times a tree would fall down during storm events. Trash doesn’t get picked up quite like it would as if it was used. How can we make this property a little more compatible to the residential character of the community?”

Ken Wolf of Entercom in Kansas City noted at the hearing that the Federal Communications Commission requires fencing around guy-wired towers and connections at broadcast facilities. The Westwood broadcast property has perimeter fencing that surrounds four of its six connections. Sherman estimated that the 8-foot-tall fence, rusted in places and topped by barbed wire, is about 40 to 50 years old. Entercom inherited it when it purchased the property.

“The neighbors have had a lot of concerns and expressed some opinions about how it looks kind of blighted,” Sherman said.

The property has had its permit renewed multiple times over the years, the last of which was approved in 2008 when Entercom agreed to complete property improvements stipulated in the renewal process.

Dave Alpert, vice president and general manager of Entercom in Kansas City, said during the hearing that the company has published structural reports on the property every five years and safety reports every three years.

The structural integrity of the towers was analyzed in 2008, Sherman said, and, as a result, they underwent upgrades to make them comply with modern engineering standards. The community has had discussions over the years about more aesthetic building extensions and walking trails, he said, though such plans were never finalized.

Inclement weather has caused the towers to fall twice, once in 1938 and again in 1941. A teenager whom police believed to be trespassing died in 2008 after falling from one of the towers.

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