Westwood City Council unanimously approves new zoning districts for multi-family use; petitioners oppose the move

A crowd filled the council chambers in Westwood Thursday, largely in opposition to new zoning text.

The Westwood City Council Thursday added its unanimous approval to a planning commission recommendation that will add two new zoning districts for the city. The proposal has been the subject of a petition asking for a delay until a comprehensive plan is completed and a crowd of nearly 50 residents filled the meeting, mostly opposed to the changes.

The two new districts will allow for more dense residential development. Currently, the city zoning only allows for single-family residential unless it is part of a planned commercial district such as the new Woodside Village under construction along Rainbow Blvd. Some speakers Thursday asked that the city remain only single family residential while others asked only for a delay in consideration until a new comprehensive plan could be considered, a project the city intends to start this year.

The changes to the zoning text will allow for a Planned Residential Cluster Development (PRCD) and a Planned Multi-Family Residential (PMFR) district. The PRCD will allow single-family dwellings, townhouses and group homes. It would not allow apartments or stacked units. The PMFR will allow buildings with one to eight units with up to three stories. It also will allow senior adult independent living, community living, assisted living, skilled nursing and continuing care retirement facilities.

The PMFR development must be adjacent to a main thoroughfare, described as Shawnee Mission Parkway, State Line Road, Rainbow, West 47th Street, and Mission Road. Much of the focus has been on what will happen to the eight-acre Entercom property at 50th and Belinder. The PMFR will be excluded from that property.

The zoning text amendments do not rezone any property. They do create the ability for someone to ask for a specific property to be rezoned.

Mayor John Yé said he had contacted approximately 50 people who had signed the petition, now numbering 439 signatures, to understand the concerns. “(A petition) with this many names gives me pause,” he said. Some signers misunderstood what they were signing for various reasons, he said. The “sore spot” the mayor said, is what happens on spaces like Entercom.

Yé told the group that the issue has been discussed for eight months and in more than 20 public meetings: “nobody is rushing anything.”

An initial proposal for a senior living center on the Entercom property was determined not to be a good fit in a plan commission discussion. The new zoning text precludes a filing for such a development on that property.

Councilor Paul Day pointed out that a recent Urban Land Institute study suggested the city needed to take action and it encouraged the text amendments.

A total of 13 people addressed the council, all but one opposed to the changes. “Do we want significant multi-family presence in Westwood,” asked Jim Orr, one of the speakers.