The Kansas City Council voted 9-to-2 Thursday for a six-month pause in major new construction in Westport, the scene of conflict between residents and developers over where and how the popular midtown community should grow.
The measure was shepherded to passage by Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who worked with business and neighborhood groups to defuse initial opposition to the idea. Development proposals already in the city’s planning pipeline would be exempt from the halt.
The ordinance, originally entitled “moratorium,” was changed by Shields to “suspension,” a bit of wordsmithing that altered nothing of substance but seemed to calm the business community.
During the hiatus, Westport stakeholders will meet to discuss the area’s future and try to devise a new land use plan. “The focus of this ordinance is planning,” said Shields.
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Westport was roiled in June by the council’s approval of a proposal by Opus Development to build a 256-unit apartment building at Westport Road and Broadway. Opponents said the building, which could rise to seven stories, is grossly out of scale in an area of small businesses, bars and restaurants.
Shields, who opposed the plan along with Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Wagner, said many in Westport “were devastated by the vote of the council on Opus.”
The ordinance passed after a little barbed back-and-forth between Shields and Councilman Scott Taylor, chairman of the council’s planning and zoning committee. Taylor, a candidate for mayor in 2019, opposed the measure when it was passed by the committee last week. He renewed his opposition Thursday, contending that the pause would send a negative message to those wanting to do business in the city.
“It sure looks like a moratorium to me,” said Taylor, referring to the ordinance’s original name. “The words ‘moratorium’ and ‘Kansas City’ should not be in the same sentence.”
Shields said Taylor’s stance was part of his “almost totally unabashed support for any new development in Kansas City.”
Taylor and Councilman Kevin McManus voted against the ordinance.