Candidates for Westwood mayor and council all backed the development of the Entercom property during a candidate forum Wednesday with strong support for the Shawnee Mission School District building a new Westwood View Elementary on the site.
Incumbent Mayor John Yé revealed that the school board is poised to vote on a deal to buy the property at its next meeting. He said the city had negotiated a right of first refusal on the current property if the school moves across the street or on the Entercom property if the school district buys it and cannot build. “We are in a position to control our own destiny,” Yé said.
His opponent, Jim Donovan, also had said he would work with the district to help them with the property. Donovan added he was “also in favor of free market enterprise.” The question asked about neighboring properties and Donovan said the city had a balloon payment coming on its purchase of the church on Rainbow. He said he doesn’t know where the city will get the money for it.
Candidates for city council, including David Waters, Jeff Harris and Margaret Bowen also specifically supported a new Westwood View on the property and said Dennis Park should be refurbished. Candidate Jayme Tebow said she wants to see Entercom developed, but also wants to see renderings and talk about adjacent properties after Entercom is settled.
The forum, sponsored by the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and Prairie Village Post, drew a standing room only crowd to the city hall community room. Candidates had the questions in advance to prepare.
On the Woodside Village project, Donovan suggested that the school district and fire district should be involved in the Tax Increment Financing negotiation for phase two of the project. “Let’s position ourselves better,” he said. Regarding the first phase now under construction, Donovan said, “it is what it is and we can’t do a whole lot.”
Yé said seeing that the developer completes the project is important for the city and that keeping the safety standards of the city high would be an important step. Traffic patterns also might be affected by the high density project, he said.
Several candidates backed a neighborhood revitalization plan to help improve housing stock and said the city needs to accommodate young families who want to stay in Westwood, but who outgrow their houses.
Candidates also addressed communication with residents and encouraging walkability.
Donovan said public engagement should be the “cornerstone” for the city. “I’m all about transparency,” he said, promising to have information out in advance.
Yé said the city can always do better on communication, but said the city has never turned down a meeting and responds to all questions. He said there is a need to “get away from conspiracy (theory)” about the city and “weed through the negativity.”