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Posted on: August 27, 2020

Stan Graham Memorial

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West Lake Hills lost one of its staunchest supporters when longtime resident and four-term City Council member Stan Graham died this month. Graham, who was 74, died from complications of pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his sister Kate Graham, niece Sarah Rabstenek and nephew Sam Bremen.

A native of Winfield, Kan., Graham moved to West Lake Hills in the 1990s to be near his sister Kate. Like so many of us, he fell in love with this jewel of a small city and its unique character. Not surprisingly, Stan, who flung himself at life, flung himself into supporting and protecting this city, advocating for many of the measures that set us apart from other cities around us.

A former U.S. Navy pilot, Graham was also an architect by training. He treasured living in our wooded hills, close to nature and wildlife with the privacy afforded by our large lots and strict building codes. He loved that the city’s master plan called for homes to be built in harmony with the natural terrain and topography, rather than imposing themselves upon it.

That began to change in the early 2000s with the trend toward larger homes. And it did not go unnoticed by Graham, who wrote numerous letters and made repeated calls to city officials complaining that the letter, if not the intent, of the city’s regulations was being violated. Particularly troubling to Graham was the increasing height of homes. He feared that if the trend continued unchecked, the city’s vistas of tree-covered hills would give way to ever higher, larger rooflines, and the city would soon lose its wooded, rural character.

As a result of Graham’s persistence, the city changed how it calculated height, imposed new restrictions and also enacted stricter rules on grading so that more of the natural terrain and tree canopy would be preserved.

Because preserving the natural beauty of this area was so important to Stan, there are few areas of the city’s code that don’t bear traces of his touch: tree and habitat protection; preserving dark skies through outdoor lighting measures; restricting signage and protecting setbacks. Yet Stan also knew that living in a heavily wooded area carried with it risks, and he actively promoted fire safety measures and worked to get West Lake Hills to adopt practices that led to the city becoming a certified Firewise Community.

He always made himself available to residents who had questions or complaints, and as a result frequently found himself on council subcommittees. He took on the unenviable task of chairing the city’s Short Term Rentals committee and along with residents, spent months drafting an ordinance that would balance protecting homeowners’ property rights while maintaining neighborhood character and tranquility. And as cut-through traffic became an increasing aggravation for many neighborhoods, he worked with residents on some of the city’s heavily traveled corridors to come up with traffic-calming plans that would control speeding and traffic volume. That was somewhat ironic, given that Stan himself, was the subject of motorists’ complaints, given his habit of riding his mountain bike without a helmet at breakneck speeds along our narrow, hilly roads.

Graham’s service on the council spanned the terms of two mayors: Dave Claunch and me.

I think I can speak for Dave that in Stan we had a treasured colleague and friend. And while we may not have always agreed with him, we knew he would always do his best to put the interests and the safety of the city and its residents first. He worked tirelessly and selflessly to that end, admonishing councils “to look after the little things because they are so important.”

And it is those little things Stan cared so much about and worked so hard to protect that help make West Lake Hills such a wonderful place to live.

This article first appeared in the Westlake Picayune on August 22, 2020

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