Description: The City of Westwood, Kansas commissioned Piper-Wind Architects to create a vision for their City's underutilized commercial areas, develop appropriate guidelines for renovations, additions and new infill projects in their residential neighborhoods, develop planning strategies to make the city a more walkable and pedestrian-friendly community, and re-write their city's zoning ordinance. The impetus behind this project was the need for this landlocked, first ring metropolitan suburb of one square mile to develop an effective tool to promote growth yet control development such that the character of their community is maintained.
Westwood was beginning to feel the pressures of large residential remodeling projects on its somewhat modest sized residential lots. Its commercial areas are at the edges of the City where it meets five other cities and one county. Providing a long range plan that offered a cohesive vision for these commercial edges was paramount to not only promoting a mix of uses and housing types but an enhancement of the public right-of-ways. Active, vibrant commercial streets with great outdoor spaces and the creation of pedestrian friendly architecture were paramount in the planning.
In the many unique single family residential districts, an important task for PWA was to determine the most typical lot sizes and to identify the character defining housing stock in each area.
Diagrams were drawn that indicated potential lot densities if additions to the existing housing were built to existing zoning regulations. These build-out scenarios allowed the City to evaluate potential densities relative to their desires to promote reinvestment while maintaining a certain amount of open space.
Other issues were addressed not included in prior ordinances such as detached garages, corner lots, porch encroachments, massing, building materials, and window placement, to name a few.
From the very beginning, Governance issues and implementation strategies were central to the development of the new Ordinances. One of the greatest challenges were in attempting to develop an ordinance that we strictly quantitative in nature thereby objective and in the eyes of the City Attorney litigation proof, versus qualitative, or subjective, in nature (which allows decisions to be open for interpretation by the Governing Board). There was also a desire for the ordinance to allow the building official to determine compliance without the use of a Design Review body such as the City's Planning Commission or another entity serving as a design review board. Developing a set of criteria that did not control design but controlled the size of new construction on existing lots since Westwood did not desire to have a design review process was important in the development of the document.
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