Change of direction

Opinion: Editorials

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The Landmark View

At the rate Brookfield is going, all of its residential alleys will be paved by the year 2254, and maybe not even then.

Actually, we made up that date simply to illustrate the futility of hoping that the village's residential alleys have any realistic hope of being even mostly paved anytime in the next century.

It appears that in 2018, two residential alleys will be paved after property owners decided to swallow hard and accept the burden of a special assessment to pay for the improvement. 

Once those folks get a taste of what that paved alley will mean in their lives, they will probably be happy to make those annual payments. But the prospect of that special assessment will scare away homeowners on many, many blocks in Brookfield.

But even at two alleys per year – and let's make no mistake, these will be the first paved residential alleys in a decade – one of the village's most prominent nuisances will continue far into the future.

The village finds itself in a position similar to the one they encountered 15 or so years ago. Prior to 2001, the only way residents got their crumbling streets repaved was to create a special service area and bear the burden of the cost for improvement.

But the village decided that improving the public roadways was a benefit to the entire village and that all residents should participate in paying for their improvement. At some point in the future, officials rightly reasoned, the street in front of everyone's house is going to need to be resurfaced. Brookfield is a community, after all. Streets are a community asset.

So are alleys. Of course, you can make the argument that not every part of Brookfield has alleys. Why should folks who don't have alleys pay for something from which they don't benefit?

Some people don't use their alleys much; they park their cars on the street. But those with alleys, even if they avoid them, certainly benefit from them. Trash collection takes place in the alley, keeping trash bins off the public parkway, for example.

It's going to be a thorny issue, and homeowners who have already ponied up to pave their alleys are going to resent it, but community infrastructure needs a community-wide solution, because it's just too darn expensive to piecemeal it out.

Even if the village elects to pave just a couple alleys per year, spreading the cost across the entire village – perhaps through a surcharge on residential waste-hauling bills -- will make it possible to bear. And although it will still take a long time to pave all the alleys, it'll get done eventually.

And a paved alley lasts for decades. Just go visit any municipality that has them. Most will be viable assets into the next century.

If the village doesn't act in a comprehensive way, it will continue down the path of never getting its alleys paved, and having them be a source of continual complaints and inconvenience to residents.

Something's got to change.


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