The Kansas City Plan Commission on Tuesday put the brakes on a fast-track proposal by Kansas City Council members Katheryn Shields and Jolie Justus to place a moratorium on redevelopment in the Westport area.
The 4th District councilwomen, whose district includes the popular entertainment district that has become a hotbed of development interests, sought to stop all development or demolition activity until April 13, 2018.
Plan commissioners rejected Shields’ request to send the moratorium request this week to the City Council and called for several weeks of public discussion before revisiting the topic.
Even if the commission had sent the case to the council, it would have gotten stiff opposition from Councilman Scott Taylor, chairman of the council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, who would have presided over the next meeting.
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Taylor took the unusual step of writing to the plan commissioners in advance of Tuesday’s hearing to warn against imposing a moratorium that would suggest “that the city was not open for business.”
Shields and Justus introduced the moratorium idea in response to neighborhood opposition to denser developments that are changing the historic character of the district.
The moratorium also was suggested to give the Historic Kansas City Foundation time to complete an inventory of Westport structures to prioritize historically significant buildings worth preserving.
That inventory is expected to be completed before the end of the year. Foundation spokeswomen said they didn’t want any irreversible demolition to happen in the meantime.
Plan commissioners said the moratorium was a rush to judgment that shouldn’t happen with such a politically and economically sensitive issue.
Bill Nigro, a Westport business owner, said he was “highly disturbed” that the ordinance was introduced without consultation with the district’s commercial business association.
“I can’t believe in three days they’d slam this down our throats,” Nigro said. “Please give us the consideration that is due.”
The plan commission agreed that several weeks of public discussion was merited and continued reconsideration until October.
As presented to the commission, the moratorium would apply to the area generally bounded by Southwest Trafficway on the west, Main Street on the east, 39th Street on the north and 43rd Street on the south.
John McGurk, representing Opus Development, and Chris Cole, representing Pulse Development, both spoke against the moratorium and said the ordinance failed to include a grandfathering provision for already-approved developments that have yet to begin construction.
“A blanket moratorium on arguably the hottest place in town will do nothing for our community,” Cole said. “Let’s do it together. Stop. Take a minute.”