The long-running dispute over the wrought iron Westlinks golf course fence may end with no fence at all, much to the chagrin of Overland Park neighbors whose homes abut the course.
The city council’s Community Development Committee took up the controversy — which has been brewing since 2013 – once again Wednesday night and ended with a recommendation that the fence be torn out.
Neighbors have been pushing to have the deteriorating fence replaced with a similar-looking, 5-foot black powder-coated steel fence. They have said that type of fence would maintain their property value and the looks of the course.
In the past, council members have discussed the possibility of replacing the steel fence with a chain-link one, or even essentially gifting a new fence and its ongoing maintenance to homeowners by putting it on their side of the property lines.
Not a ‘good use’ of taxypayer dollars, says councilor
However those previously-rejected options were not on the table at the Wednesday meeting. Committee members entertained the idea of putting a steel fence up on the city-owned golf course property over the period of several years and paying for it out of golf course revenue. But that motion was voted down. Instead, committee members voted to accept the staff recommendation that no fence is needed.
Cost was the main stumbling block for the four-member majority who voted to do away with the fence. Informal estimates put the steel fence at $355,000 to $450,000.
“I am not in good conscience able to pay for a half a million dollar fence from the general fund in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t feel that is good use of taxpayer money,” said Councilmember Holly Grummert. She also objected to paying it out of user fees from the golf course fund because it would cause delays in the long list of other maintenance needed.
Chairman Curt Skoog and Councilmembers Chris Newlin and Tom Carignan also voted against the fence replacement. “At the end of the day, when staff is saying they don’t need a fence I just cannot support replacing the fence,” Skoog said.
Neighbors want replacement
Golf course neighbors have campaigned hard for replacement, saying that they bought their homes with the understanding that the fence would remain. Their position is based on the history of the course.
The nine-hole Westlinks course is an island that is considered part of the Sykes/Lady Golf Course near 125th Street and Quivira Road but is across the street. When it was built in 1984, the developer paid part of the cost of the iron fence, then gradually deeded the course back to the city.
Neighbors in the nearby Nottingham by the Green subdivision have complained that the city should have done better at maintaining the fence. They have opposed chain link as an inferior replacement, but have also been against removal of the fence because their back yards would become unprotected and are too close to cart paths. The idea of a replacement fence on their own land also was a no-go because it would interfere with landscaping and other fence connections.
“I’m hopeful that in your consideration you will look at that history and the understanding that the homeowners have had for over 25 years,” said neighbor Eleanor “Snookie” Krumbiegel. “We’re hopeful this will have a good result for us and this can be put to rest.”
Council members Stacie Gram and Faris Farassati supported the fence replacement, with funding flexible from the golf fund, possibly over a few years.
“To me it comes down to the issue of fairness,” Gram said. “Do I want to fund this fence right now under our current economic conditions? No. But I think it’s fair to do so.”
“There was a promise made to these neighbors when that development was put together and I think that makes it different,” she said.
Farassati said the idea was a good balance between the city and the homeowner’s needs. Eventually the economy will improve and more people will return to a course that is an amenity and revenue source for the city, he said. “It’s the best solution we have had so far.”
The fence is now headed for discussion by the full city council.