By Bob Uphues
Brookfield's board of trustees will take a last look at the village's new comprehensive plan, now in its final draft form, during its next committee of the whole meeting on Monday, Jan. 8, with an expectation of adopting the document later this month.
After more than a year of work by a team of consultants, a select steering committee and input from residents and other key stakeholders, the final document is easily the most detailed strategic planning document ever produced by the village.
In addition, it is the village's most ambitious planning document and includes recommendations that could have a profound effect on future development in Brookfield.
While it's difficult to encapsulate all of the detailed recommendations in the comprehensive plan, there are some broad themes that are evident, particularly with respect to density and scale.
Village officials also clearly would like to be able to more tightly steer development by encouraging incentives for developments that meet specific design standards outlines in a separate but crucial document that's part of the final document – a 79-page Sub-Area Design Manual intended to give developers "a better understanding of the village's expectations for creating a vibrant community."
While the design manual doesn't require developers to follow the guidelines, and doesn't affect single-family residential zoning districts, it's meant as a supplement, spreading the principles enshrined in the Station Area Zoning Code, adopted by the village board a year ago for commercial and residential areas along the BNSF train line.
"We definitely would love to see design standards [from the Station Area Code] replicated in other areas of the village," said Emily Egan, Brookfield's village planner.
The design manual also recommends the creation of a separate Design Review Commission as a subcommittee of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission. The design review panel, it is suggested, would include two architects, a landscape architect, a person with historic preservation and design experience, a downtown building owner and a member of the planning and zoning commission.
The design review panel would review plans and make recommendations to the planning and zoning commission before that group conducts public hearings on proposed developments in areas outside the Station Area districts.
It would be up to the village board to create the Design Review Commission by ordinance.
The Sub-Area Design Manual also tends to pair design standards for the downtown business district and Eight Corners. For example, the manual recommends that the height of new infill structures in both the downtown and Eight Corners business districts be between 20 and 78 feet.
The comprehensive plan itself also recommends pushing the SA-4 zoning district of downtown Brookfield north along Grand Boulevard to better connect downtown Brookfield and Eight Corners, which are called out in the comprehensive plan as "the village's primary mixed-use pedestrian-oriented environments."
The plan does not specify whether that means the Station Area Code's SA-4a district, which allows buildings up to three stories tall, or SA-4b, which allows buildings up to six stories tall.
"Eight Corners is certainly ready for infill redevelopment," Egan said. "It's one of the few areas we'd like to see a bit more density. Creating an active street network is important to help spur development."
In addition to the building height, the design manual lists recommendations for setbacks, building materials, façade design and drive-thrus. It also recommends how and where parking and bicycle facilities should be incorporated into plans, gives recommendations for signage, streetscape elements, landscaping, sustainable design, lighting and planning with public safety in mind.
"We hope that any developer, before they come to the village, would review [the design manual] and sense that that's where we want to go," Egan said.
Apart from the design manual, the separate 200-plus page comprehensive plan document includes many other recommendations. The following is a roundup of some of the more notable recommendations in the comprehensive plan's implementation matrix.
Create a "Back to Brookfield" incentive program to attract Lyons Township and Riverside-Brookfield high school graduates with college degrees in STEM fields to return to live in Brookfield.
Encourage aging-in-place/multigenerational family living by allowing in-law apartments in homes and accessory structures like garages, but prohibiting those units from being rented.
Encourage redevelopment of obsolete industrial buildings and introduce live-work and loft units. Allow home office uses in accessory structures, such as garages, in single-family areas.
Create better public access to Salt Creek by clearing the area near the river of overgrown invasive species and creating a Salt Creek trail in both north and south Kiwanis Park, possibly connecting the two areas via overpass or underpass at the railroad tracks.
Create commercial corridor design guidelines for streets like Ogden Avenue and 31st Street, create a façade renovation program and convert motel uses on Ogden Avenue by encouraging redevelopment through public/private partnerships.
Encourage the participation of village youth by creating a joint village-school Youth Advisory Commission.
Identify locations for new parks, including mini-parks in underserved areas.
Create new green infrastructure and renewable energy goals, including incentivizing replacement of lawns with native plantings and banning the use of certain fertilizers and pesticides.