Both Brookfield and Riverside are receiving attention from developers that is unprecedented in recent decades. Over the past year alone, both village have heard proposals on major developments that will have a lasting impact on future redevelopment, both economic and residential.
Because the villages are relatively new to all of this attention, and because both are also casting a fresh eye toward the zoning codes in each village, they have been sending mixed signals to both developers and residents.
In Riverside, the village has misread the new central business district zoning code twice. In the first case, a disagreement over what constituted the “front” of the Henninger property led to a great deal of confusion and frustration on the part of developers. In the second case, a misinterpretation over parking requirements for a new addition to the Arcade Building, has led to an unforeseen roadblock to that development.
In Brookfield, there is continuing frustration over the discrepancies between current zoning laws and the vision put forth by the 2020 Master Plan. Brookfield’s planning and zoning boards also appear at times to be unclear on procedural matters.
Both villages will continue to be courted by developers in coming years. It’s important, therefore, that both villages come to grips with their codes and make sure that the volunteer commissions charged with recommending planned developments and zoning variations are equipped to walk the minefield of the approval process.
In Brookfield, it’s encouraging that the new village board wants to fast-track training for members of its zoning and planning boards. That kind of training will lead to not only better relationships with developers, but with residents who want to make sure their voices are heard as well.
In Riverside, it’s encouraging that the Plan Commission and village board have sought to make right misinterpretations of its code. It’s our belief that those misinterpretations are due to the fact that the village is applying the new code for the first time. Over time, we would hope that the missteps will disappear and that the village can head off disputes over such crucial matters as parking and bulk requirements.
While both village ought to welcome new development, the initial developments will set precedents that will be difficult to undo. Now’s the time to get it right, and make both villages attractive to both developers and home buyers in coming years.