Westwood Hills City Council candidates on the issues: Addressing climate change

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for the Westwood Hills City Council address.

Based on your feedback, we developed a three-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Westwood Hills.

We’re publish the candidates’ responses to one question per day. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following:

Climate change continues to be top of mind for many Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps can Westwood Hills take to prepare neighborhoods for increased flooding, along with extreme heat and drought events? What steps would you like to see the city take to build climate resilience?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on the issue:

Council member at-large

David Schmitz

Westwood Hills already partners with Bridging The Gap in order to get homeowners to make mostly landscaping decisions that help with storm water issues, providing a financial incentive to do the right thing and keep more of the water in the ground than rushing and overwhelming the sewers. Native plants, rain barrels, rain gardens, and many other measures are included in this program that can certainly help to reduce the impact of both heat and flood events. The tree coverage is great here but I would like to see more incentives for rooftop solar panels on homes wherever it is applicable and beneficial as well. Climate will continue to be an issue for future generations and we all need to act and be in it together. If we aren’t all making it better it will continue to grow as a more difficult challenge, so we need to act locally.

 

Rosemary Podrebarac (incumbent)

With respect to addressing the risk of flooding, Westwood Hills has become a member of Watershed Organization 1 in Johnson County, Kansas.  Through Watershed Organization 1, Westwood Hills and other area cities in Northeast Johnson County work collaboratively to investigate and propose stormwater structural and non-structural projects to reduce the risk of flooding, to improve water quality, and to control stormwater runoff.  Watershed Organization 1 will be able to seek funding from Johnson County Stormwater Management for its proposed projects.

The housing stock within the City is in good condition, protecting residents from extreme heat and other weather events, provided that utilities are available.  The only utility for which the City is responsible is the stormwater system within the City, with other utilities being provided by third parties.  With respect to the stormwater system, in the past couple of years, the City has completed replacement of drop inlets and repair of a portion of the stormwater collection pipes.  Ongoing maintenance of the system and cleaning of the street gutters will be required in order to prevent flooding from water backing up behind blockages.

As Westwood Hills is a fully developed small city with predominantly single-family residential structures, most climate resilience efforts in Westwood Hills will be focused on homeowners and their residential properties.  The City’s ordinances currently include provisions establishing a maximum of the area of residential lots which may be covered by impervious surfaces in order to require green space to allow for water absorption.  For the past several years, the City has participated in a Johnson County program to encourage homeowners to include native plantings and rain gardens in their landscape so as to minimize stormwater runoff.  The City should continue these efforts to encourage homeowners to plant native and limit impervious services on their properties.  Additionally, the City should continue to plant trees and maintain healthy plantings on The Green, traffic islands, and City entryways.

The City has adopted the Johnson County, Kansas County Emergency Operations Plan and the Kansas Homeland Security Region L. Hazard Mitigation Plan.  By adopting these disaster mitigation plans, the City of Westwood Hills not only benefits from Johnson County’s efforts for all municipalities within the county with respect to disaster responses and also becomes eligible for FEMA funding and grants for disaster mitigation projects.

Ed Gogol (incumbent)

Since our city sits atop a hill, water runoff can be a destructive problem, both in our city and beyond. The city has taken an aggressive approach to keeping stormwater drains clear, but that issue requires residents to prevent blockage by debris in the road gutters. The city mentions this issue in its newsletters, but should also inform individual residents to do not manage this problem in front of their properties. The city has encouraged development of rain gardens, rain barrels and holding pools, which not only reduce immediate runoff, but may also provide some of the water needed for gardens during heat waves. A longer-term problem with climate change is the source of electricity, and allowing and encouraging solar panel installation on homes helps offset use of fossil fuels.

Karen Shelor Sexton (incumbent)

Did not respond

Michael Anfang (incumbent)

Did not respond

Ludwig Villasi (incumbent)

Did not respond