Today we move to the second question to the candidates for mayor of Westwood in our continuing coverage of municipal elections in NEJC. Today’s question is:
Woodside Village changes the complexion of housing in the city. What is the next step for Westwood in terms of its residential community?
Westwood’s residential future is bright but the next steps must be done in a thoughtful way to maintain a walkable, residential, single-family environment that we have come to know and cherish.
1. As commercial /retail projects are completed in and around the area, we must maintain as a priority the upkeep of the existing housing stock. That means we will need a re-focused attention on Codes Enforcement. During my opponent’s three terms on the council the City retained a part time employee to maintain codes enforcement, usually on Saturdays. This has been an ongoing challenge with the increase of rental homes (Mr. Donovan owns 2 rentals) in Westwood that occurred after the real state crash and subprime mortgage crisis. Rentals are not a problem if they are kept up to code. We cannot afford to neglect upkeep of property which threatens neighboring values. We have since merged positions with the Building Official to make a full time position. Given the current work load from the new successful projects, the City may need to investigate all available means to ensure enforcement of property codes are kept current. This is a mission of the current staff.
2.We also need to consider examining our zoning ordinances so that new families can have an opportunity to reinvest in the housing stock. Present stock cannot always meet current demand standards. This will ensure the ability for families to stay in Westwood longer and well beyond the “first time buyer” status. Prior to 2008 the onerous nature of the building codes chased away remodeling opportunities and our image reflected an unwillingness to allow for projects. We should also review what has been proposed by the 47th St. Overlay District committee in utilizing the NRA (Neighborhood Revitalization Act). There are opportunities for residents to be incented to invest back into older housing stock and remain as residents, whose families would populate Westwood View.
3.Traffic patterns for walkable standards and public safety are essential to protecting single family residential life. We need to be aware of changing traffic patterns and work with KDOT and businesses to retain a walkable setting while maintaining the highest standards of public safety and the most professional and responsive team. Public safety must be preserved at the highest level throughout the entire city. This is a critical component of our reputation for family living.
Codes enforcement, revisiting the zoning ordinances, crafting opportunities under the NRA and ensuring the highest professional level of safety are all priorities that would reinforce protecting and bolstering a single-family residential community that attracts families and long term residents. Everything that has been done over the past four years has kept these as priorities and will continue to do so.
The next step for Westwood’s residential community should be to remain a residential community. The city is made up primarily of single-family homes dedicated to the principals of quality schools, livable/walk-able neighborhoods and excellent services. It is this tradition of friendly neighbors that makes our city so perfect for families.
My administration will look into incentives for growing our single-family housing stock to better reflect today’s housing needs. While most of our houses were built post World War II, a substantial portion predates the war and generally are 1,000 square feet or less with two bedrooms and one bath. Today’s houses exceed this size and need.
Further, the introduction of zoning that would allow for large-scale non-owner occupied housing to include apartments and senior assisted living can forever modify Westwood’s character, housing and demographics. While there may be positives associated with this zoning, there may be some unintended consequences (safety, security, resource demands, property values and traffic issues just to name a few).
Until the total impact on Westwood and our community (including Westwood View) has been realized and thoroughly assessed and addressed, Westwood must carefully scrutinize any zoning and development proposals. Progress must be reasonable, not reckless.
It may be better to provide time for the comprehensive plan update to guide decisions. As Mayor I would remind leaders to not cut corners and give due diligence to our actions and decisions.
Tomorrow’s question: Woodside Village, the 47th Street corridor and the Entercom area extending over to the former church all have been topics of discussion in recent months. What other area of the city needs attention and why?
Monday’s question: Building on inclusion