The Westwood City Council on Thursday adopted a new comprehensive land use plan designed to help guide development decisions in the city for the foreseeable future.
The unanimous vote ended a two-year-long process to provide the first significant update to the city’s comprehensive plan since 1997.
“This has been a long time in coming,” Mayor John Yè said.
Consultants for the city conducted surveys and held three workshops to get public input, while a steering committee and the city’s planning commission spent several additional meetings working on the specifics of the plan as well.
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However, planners ended up tabling the first proposal in March following strong opposition from residents who said the plan encouraged apartments and multi-family townhomes in a city predominantly characterized by single-family homes. They also complained about language recommending the city acquire property along key traffic arteries for potential future commercial or multi-family development.
The revised plan sought to address most of these concerns, removing the references to medium-density and multi-family housing as well as city acquisitions. It also eliminated plans for changing 47th Terrace and 48th Street in the Upper East Westwood neighborhoods to one-way streets, which residents said would be unsafe during the winter.
In a sharp contrast to past meetings on the plan, which sometimes featured packed crowds and dozens of speakers, no members of the public addressed the council on Thursday to give their input.
Yè thanked the many staff members, commissioners and Westwood residents who participated in the process and said the city will review the plan every year to make sure it reflects changes in the city.
“This is not the end of a process,” he said. “Believe it or not, even though we’ve been going through this for two years this is the beginning. The document is meant to be an evolving, living, breathing document.”
About the only concern came from Councilman David Waters, who voted for the plan but said he didn’t think it did enough to emphasize how important the continued operation of Westwood View Elementary School is to the city’s identity.
The Shawnee Mission School District has considered closing the school in the past, given its low enrollment, but that plan seems to be on hold since the district last year purchased six acres at 50th Street and Belinder Avenue for a future school. Still, Waters pointed out, the district is in the middle of choosing a new superintendent and will likely see at least one new school board member this fall.
“I would appreciate a little more discussion as this plan gets adopted and reviewed on an annual basis looking at where Westwood View fits into this and maybe we need to make that more of a priority in the messaging we send with this document,” he said.
Yè noted that while the keeping Westwood View open is one of 15 objectives in the plan, the school is mentioned 45 times throughout the document.
“I think it’s emphasized pretty well,” he said.
In other business, the council approved the appointment of former city council member Paul Day to fill the vacancy on the board created when Margaret Bowen stepped down last month. Day, who served two terms on the council between 2008 and 2016, will serve until the original end of Bowen’s term in January 2020.
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