Westwood residents object to changes in neighborhood east of Rainbow in comprehensive plan

The Westwood Annex neighborhood is full of signs opposing changes suggested in the comprehensive plan draft.
The Westwood Annex neighborhood is full of signs opposing changes suggested in the comprehensive plan draft.

An overflow crowd spilled out of the Westwood City Council chambers Monday night and more than two dozen speakers expressed opposition to parts of the city’s proposed comprehensive plan that was before the planning commission for a public hearing.

The comments largely concentrated on references in the plan to the area east of Rainbow along 47th Terrace and 48th Street. The objections, many from residents of those streets, were to suggestions that higher density housing should be considered.

That area is often referred to as the Westwood Annex It was annexed into the city in 1960. The streets lie just to the south of the new Woodside Village development and the neighborhood runs east to State Line Road. The neighborhood has small lots and a narrow street right-of-way.

The comprehensive plan, which has been in the works for nearly two years, suggested that the neighborhood, now called Upper East Westwood in the document, could have denser residential development than the single-family homes that currently occupy it. A strategy for future land use identified in the plan calls for “Strategically (purchasing) properties when owners voluntarily sell in order to assemble lots for redevelopment.”

Speakers were overwhelmingly opposed to changing the single-family character of the neighborhood, and to the purchase of any property assemble lots for redevelopment. They also opposed a suggestion that the two streets be converted to one-way.

Cathy Davis, who lives on 48th Street, said the neighborhood was an “opportunity area” with single-family homes being redeveloped. More than one resident said the area already was being revitalized with new single-family houses.

“This plan has missed the spirit of this community,” said Dave Owens.

“It is clearly not what people want,” said Jim Orr. “The citizens want to keep the single-family character of the city.”

Former city council member Paul Day said parts of the plan would not be allowed under current zoning text. He suggested multi-family still be allowed along the main corridors – usually identified as Rainbow and 47th Street, “but not in the Annex.”

Several planning commission members, responding at the conclusion of the nearly 4-hour meeting, said they would not support the one-way streets or the purchase of homes for redevelopment. Chris Ross said he would not support “anything that suggests we mess with any of our single-family residents.”

“Our commercial areas are going to be where we are going to see the most pressure,” Ross added, saying he had hoped for more feedback about some of the areas such as the church and Entercom properties.

The planning commission is planning a working session for April to make more changes to the plan.