Residents support observatory development despite concerns

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Slated for a spring 2024 opening, the development of Grand Universe, an 150,000-square-foot observatory, digital planetarium and science education center from EdgeRock Development and Link Institute, is causing a buzz in Westfield.

But before Grand Universe is developed, EdgeRock will build out an expansive community entertainment center that owner Birch Dalton said will include activities like a jump park, laser tag and indoor and outdoor go-kart tracks.

The $20 million Edgerock investment – not including the projected $32 million investment from the Link Institute to build the observatory – will be built on a 68-acre site along Tomlinson Road from 186th to 191st streets, adjacent to Grand Park. The development also could include a hotel and park space.

EdgeRock must first have portions of the land rezoned to allow for such a development. At its Jan. 21 meeting, the Westfield Advisory Plan Commission held a public hearing on the request, and though the overall project was supported, some residents had concerns, primarily about noise and increased traffic.

Resident Darlene Wyatt, who owns Almost Home boarding kennel at 18710 Chad Hittle Dr., east of the proposed development, voiced concern about the noise gas-powered go-karts would create. She said she supports the project but only wants electric go-karts because noisy gas-powered vehicles would cause stress for the animals at the kennel. Wyatt also requested construction of a land buffer to block sound.

Commissioners echoed her sentiments.

Commissioner Ginny Kelleher said she would not support the rezone request if it meant gas-powered go-karts would be used. Commissioners Andre Maue, Dave Schmitz, Victor McCarty and Cindy Spoljaric agreed.

At its next meeting, the commission will vote to send either a favorable or unfavorable recommendation to the Westfield City Council, which will give final approval. If approved, the zoning of a majority of the property will change from agriculture/single-family rural to local business.

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