Westwood planning officials on Monday sent the first comprehensive plan update in 20 years to the City Council for approval.
The city’s planning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the plan, which would help determine development, infrastructure and growth patterns in the city for the next decade or more.
Fred Sherman, the city’s chief administrative officer, said he expected council members to take up the new plan at their July 13 meeting.
“The plan is not necessarily to say specifically what is going to be in the future, as much as to identify where those potential changes are going to take place, what are the issues, what are the possibilities, and then as we evaluate those possibilities, what needs to be considered in terms of strategies and desired outcomes,” Sherman told the commission and several dozen audience members.
Westwood hasn’t significantly updated its comprehensive plan since 1997. In July 2015, officials started developing the new plan through a series of public meetings and workshops. Commissioners tabled the plan in March after it ran into strong public opposition, requiring another round of meetings to edit it further.
The newest version sought to deal with critics’ main concerns. Specifically, it removed references to encouraging medium-density and multifamily housing in a city dominated by single-family homes, and it axed proposals to allow the city to acquire property along key traffic arteries for potential future development.
The plan also eliminated plans for changing 47th Terrace and 48th Street in the so-called Upper East Westwood neighborhoods to one-way streets, which residents complained would be difficult to traverse when icy in the winter.
“Our goal is to come up with a consensus for this plan that is inclusive,” said Commission Chairman Robert Junk.
Resident Caryl Francis-Niedens thanked the commission for the work and said her experience with master plans in the private sector show they always get amended over time.
“This document is not the end-all, be-all, and I can guarantee you everything in here will (not) come to fruition,” Francis-Niedens said. “It’s a great starting point.”
Despite the changes, several residents said they still opposed parts of the plan.
For example, some criticized plans to possibly add sidewalks to sections of 48th Street or 47th Terrace because they said such plans would require taking down trees or buying up front yards along the narrow streets. Others pointed to a section dealing with the former home of Entercom Radio at 50th Street and Belinder Avenue that says that future land use policies should include considering “various housing options and choices.” They said the plan should specifically discourage housing choices other than single-family homes.
“I believe that most of the residents that I have talked to didn’t move to Westwood so we could have all sorts of housing options,” said resident Jayme Tebow. “We moved here because we have character and charm and walkability. None of us are opposed to change. We want sensible change.”
David Twiddy: firstname.lastname@example.org