The Brookfield Board of Trustees slammed the brakes on a proposed redevelopment plan for the former Buresh Lobster House property Monday night, shipping it back to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
In response to an opinion by the village’s attorney, Rich Ramello, the board unanimously agreed that the matter needed to be sent back for further discussion after complaints that the zoning board had conducted an April 7 hearing improperly.
“The minutes of the meeting reflect that there wasn’t an opportunity for cross examination [of the petitioner],” said Village President Michael Garvey. “A recent Illinois Supreme Court case specifically laid out what has to happen in these hearings.”
The court case Garvey referred to was a recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court that ruled the Village of Lisle conducted a zoning hearing improperly and reversed the village’s approval of zoning variances for a Meijer superstore.
On April 7, the Brookfield Zoning Board of Appeals recommended several variations to allow the construction of 18 townhomes and four single-family homes on the site of the former restaurant at 8906 31st St. The plan was a compromise between the developer and a majority of neighbors, who have been battling over the site since early 2004.
One neighbor, David Skurkis of the 3000 block of Vernon Avenue, has been a staunch opponent of giving the developers any zoning variations and has complained repeatedly about the appeals process, which he said stifled rebuttals and quashed attempts at cross examination.
“I’ve voiced point-of-order objections, and I’ve been shouted down,” Skurkis said. “Maybe they’ve finally opened their eyes and are going to start following the rules.”
Skurkis has also complained that the developers of the Buresh site have never shown that not obtaining variations would create a hardship that would preclude development of the property.
“The developers have never raised one true hardship,” Skurkis said. “I would hope [the village] would say the zoning laws are the zoning laws and you have to live with it.”
But Skurkis appears to be alone in that opinion, at least among neighbors to the 31st Street site.
At past meetings, several residents have endorsed the compromise plan. Monday night, that support was repeated by Bob Drake, a resident of the 3000 block of Forest Avenue.
“I understand where Mr. Skurkis is coming from,” Drake said. “I’ve been amongst the many residents who have fought against the gross over-redevelopment of this property since it started. In my opinion, this is a reasonable compromise.”
The architect for the developers, John Schiess, said he was taken by surprise at the ruling of the village board and hoped that the process could be expedited. At the same time, he agreed that another hearing at the zoning board level was needed if there were unanswered questions.
“I don’t want to move forward with a development that’s vulnerable,” Schiess said. “There are two [parties] vulnerable here?”our development and the board.”
It is likely that the zoning board will call a special meeting, perhaps within the next two weeks. The next regularly scheduled zoning board meeting is June 16, but it’s agenda is full already.
Garvey said the village board might also consider a special meeting in June or July to consider the recommendations of the zoning board.
Schiess said he did not expect the slowdown to affect what he feels is widespread support for the plan. He said that if the plan is approved by the board, he could break ground on the development almost immediately.