Today marks the beginning of coverage of candidates in the Westwood municipal election. We feature the responses to the first question posed to city council candidates in the city. Four candidates are running for two at-large positions. Today’s question is:
What steps do you see as important to take in making Westwood more attractive as a residential destination and continuing the repopulation of Westwood View Elementary?
Keep our town desirable to home buyers by retaining our character, charm, and single family home zoning. Refurbish Joe Dennis Park. Keep our police department strong. If we are lucky enough to have a new Westwood View built on the Entercom site, help facilitate the building of high-quality single family homes on the original school parcel. Many prestigious, local SFH developers are eager for a Westwood project.
The Woodside Village development will add several hundred renters to our city. We should be careful not to overdevelop Westwood—that could tarnish our appeal and bring traffic problems and additional crime.
I see two steps to make Westwood more attractive as a residential destination, both based on the fact that approximately 80% of the homes in Westwood are between 55 and 95 years old. Maintaining and upgrading the existing housing stock would make Westwood more attractive, but the city has fallen behind our neighbors on neighborhood revitalization efforts. The 47th and Mission Road Committee has articulated sound approaches and programs for the revitalization of existing housing stock, and our neighboring municipalities have launched programs. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas has a set of residential and business programs, including a Neighborhood Revitalization Act which returns incremental taxes to homeowners based on qualified improvements. Roeland Park has a set of Home Maintenance Programs, including a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Once our new city government is in place, Westwood should follow our neighbors’ lead and put focus on neighborhood revitalization programs.
In addition, the city has existing Building, Health and Welfare, and Traffic codes which collectively enhance the city’s appearance. The new city government should also begin a campaign, perhaps using creative means, to re-educate the public on the codes and begin more active enforcement.
To continue the repopulation of Westwood View Elementary, the city must continue its productive, close working partnership with the Shawnee Mission School District. The recent news of the District’s imminent vote to purchase the Entercom property is a strong indicator of the strength of this relationship and of the District’s long-term commitment to Westwood View and the city. However, this purchase is only the beginning of Westwood View’s next chapter and good partnerships do not happen on their own. The city must continue to invest in this close partnership and exercise patience as the District works through plans for the current school, their current property, and the Entercom property. The more the public sees Westwood View as a stable institution offering a quality education, working in close partnership with the city, the more attractive Westwood will be as a residential destination and Westwood View will be sought after.
The attraction to Westwood has always been its location,character and grade school. If SMSD builds a new grade school, I would to see it built to fit the character and scale of our community. I would also like to see Joe Dennis park renovated and possibly expanded with more playground areas and open space for residents to enjoy.
Of course, our current stock is aging and many young couples find the houses too small for families. I would certainly encourage renovation to better accommodate their needs. Although, once again, we must ensure the renovation fits the scale and character of Westwood.
This issue is of the utmost importance to me. I am invested in Westwood and Westwood View Elementary, having a son who is currently a second-grader and another starting kindergarten in the fall. Our City Council needs the parent perspective. I also understand the pressures our school families face. Our family is now in our second home in Westwood, having ‘out-grown’ the first. It was a priority for us to stay in Westwood. We need to make sure that our residents feel they can grow their families here and make Westwood their permanent home.
I have worked on these issues as a member of the Westwood Planning Commission. One of my first projects was to review our existing zoning and subdivision regulations looking for more opportunities for residents to improve their homes. By allowing more flexibility in setbacks and lot coverage ratios, it is now easier for homeowners to add that second bathroom, to build that detached garage, or expand their kitchen. These steps will give us the tools to bring our 1940s (and older) homes up to 2016 expectations.
As a member of the 47th and Mission Road Area Development and Management Committee, I have authored a Neighborhood Redevelopment District Program for the City. This NRD would allow residents making significant investments in their homes, thereby raising their property values, to receive partial rebates of their property taxes. The NRD helps to pay for the improvements and would serve as a “thank you” for their new investment in our city. We have presented this plan to the City and, as a member of the City Council, I would see that it is finally adopted.
Residents of Westwood enjoy their single family homes and our wonderful community school, but they also appreciate having or being near the best amenities the metro area has to offer. Westwood must continue to improve its commercial corridors to attract quality retailers, restaurants, and services residents desire. Westwood is a progressive and creative city. To make Westwood even more of a residential destination, we must offer parks and green spaces, and modernize our pedestrian, bicycle, and transit connections.
I understand how all of these issues relate to each other. I have been a leader on them already, and I am ready to lead the city now, from day one. I would ask for your support April 5. Please join me in making Westwood a friendly, collaborative, and vibrant community!
Tomorrow’s question: Please describe how you see the council’s role in managing or leading the growth and changes that are coming to Westwood.