The Westwood City Council Thursday sent a long-simmering dispute over the condition of the Entercom radio tower property back to the planning commission after once again hearing from neighbors who complained about the condition of the fencing on property’s perimeter.
The multi-acre Entercom property has a now-vacant building and two radio towers near 50th and Belinder. The towers, in a residential neighborhood near Westwood View Elementary School, have been at the site before Westwood was incorporated as a city. Neighbors to the property have appeared at two planning commission hearings to object to the condition of the property, especially the perimeter chain link fence that is over eight-feet high and is topped with barbed wire.
At issue is Entercom’s special use permit (SUP) for the tower operation, which is up for renewal. The planning commission recommended approval of the permit, but added several stipulations. Among those is that the perimeter fence be removed and, if Entercom chooses, be replaced by fencing that meets current Westwood standards.
Entercom objected to removing the fence, contending it is a deterrent to people entering the property and being injured.
Steve Kraske, one of the residents who lives near the property, disputed the fence’s deterrent value because of holes and gaps in the fencing. “There has been easy access to that lot for years,” Kraske said. “When you hear concerns about liability, you wonder how strong they can be.” Kraske also pointed to other Entercom properties, including one along Mission Road in Prairie Village that do not have chain link fencing.
“The neighborhood is tired of the way this fence looks. We’ve been living with this for a long time,” Kraske said, addressing an Entercom executive. “We don’t seem to get your attention until one of your (SUPs) comes up. There’s been a breach of trust.” Another neighbor described his difficulties selling his house because potential buyers were put off by the look of the fence.
Ed Bullard, an attorney representing Entercom offered several modifications to the planning commission stipulations, including removing the barbed wire on top of the fence and painting the fence or reconditioning it. He said a stipulation to remove a barricade at the circle drive in front of the building was a “non-starter.” Bullard resisted any agreement to remove the perimeter fence and just leave the existing fencing around the ground tower. “You can’t climb the tower in Westwood without getting fried,” he said at one point, noting the difference between the energized Belinder towers and a tower at Entercom’s Mission headquarters.
Councilor Paul Day said he could not vote for a stipulation to remove perimeter fencing. “It seems to me to be irresponsible to remove that fence.”
The council sent the issue back to the planning commission to vet Entercom’s counter-proposals and look for compromise on the fencing issues. It is expected to take the matter up in February. The city’s attorney, Ryan Denk, said fence issues also could be addressed through codes enforcement.