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Opinion: Columns

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Brookfield isn't alone in experiencing the phenomenon of Driveways to Nowhere – ribbons of concrete or asphalt in the front and side yards of homes that don't lead to a garage or carport.

In most cases, it's clear that the driveways led somewhere in the past – to a garage at the rear of the property or to a garage that once lined up with the front setback of a home but which got converted to some other use.

In the latter case, you'd have thought that the removal of a garage from a home's intrinsic design would have mandated removing the driveway that led to it. For whatever reason, those driveways were allowed to remain and they became convenient parking pads for vehicles.

Such driveways typically run through at least part of what's considered the front yard of a home. As multiple cars per family have become the norm over the years, those parking pads have turned into front yard parking lots, which really wasn't their intent, and we can see why the village of Brookfield would want to eliminate as many of those driveways as possible.

The side drives that once led to a garage but more commonly lead now to a side door are a tougher call. The village's stance recently has been to allow the drives to remain as long as there's enough room to park a car behind the home's front setback.

That's also sensible, though there are exceptions to the rule that have been created because the village over time has allowed homeowners to build other structures in side yards, like decks and patios.

So when the village in the past couple of years started implementing a policy of removing curb cuts to many front and side drives, it angered the owners of homes where past village practices had created conditions that were suddenly undesirable.

The trouble in Brookfield is exacerbated by the village's historic decision many years ago and continued through the present day of not paving its alleys. No one wants to use Brookfield's gravel alleys, because fixes are always temporary. Alleys eventually are either lakes after heavy rains or dusty, pot-holed moonscapes.

That's part of this year's strong reaction to notices sent to homeowners earlier this month about the possible removal of curb cuts for driveways to nowhere. The alleys are brutal.

Again, we call on the village to reevaluate its approach to paving alleys. At the same time, we also want Brookfield residents to realize that 125 years of policy that has kept alleys unpaved is largely resident-driven.

The reason the alleys aren't paved is no one wanted to pay the price. If residents want the alleys paved, then residents will have to bite the bullet. There's no special pot of money that exists somewhere for alley paving, and historically grants have not been available for such projects.

Whether the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District might be willing to contribute some funds to a green alley campaign might be something to investigate, but that won't come close to covering the full cost.

It's time for the village to begin carefully, deliberately crafting a process to address its alleys. Then maybe side drives won't seem so important.

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Bill Janulis  

Posted: April 18th, 2018 7:39 PM

As a 30 year plus resident of Brookfield who must access his garage via an unpaved alley, I have some long term observations to share. The Village sends grading machines down our alley periodically, presumably to remedy the various holes and uneven spots. Unfortunately, my experience is that the usual result of these efforts is simply to create different holes and uneven spaces. I can attest that the grading repeatedly fails to meaningfully remedy the problems. A visual inspection by the Public Works manager or stall member after the first moderate rainfall after the grading effort would confirm this. (I wonder if that has ever been done.) Nevertheless, I humbly suggest that the Public Works Department staff consider a different approach that actually results in substantial improvement because I have employed it to limited extent. A day or two after a decent rainfall the standing water will provide a roadmap of the holes, then simply go down the alley and fill the largest holes and uneven spots with some crushed limestone or some other stone fill. Would Public Works please at least give this a try?

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