If Monday night’s discussion of Brookfield’s fence ordinance highlights one thing, it’s that the village’s residential zoning code needs a more comprehensive look. And while we commend Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral for beginning to attack Brookfield’s book of ordinances, we can’t help but think that a more comprehensive approach to the issue would not only be more efficient in the long run, but prevent the village board from having to discuss such issues in microscopic detail in such a piecemeal fashion.
That’s not to say the village board won’t be intimately involved with any code revisions?”they’re bound to be. But since one code may impact another and all of them will hopefully form a coherent whole at some point in the future, we think looking at the ordinances as a whole makes more sense.
Because Brookfield’s residential zoning code is complex and important, it deserves that kind of attention. The village’s commercial zoning codes deserve the same, but separate attention. And if the village’s master plan is ever to be implemented on a large scale, both ends of that issue need to be addressed. But doing it by picking and choosing random codes will take forever.
Indeed, it will take long enough by addressing the zoning code in a comprehensive fashion. All anyone needs to do is look east toward Riverside, where a revision of that village’s residential zoning code took over two years, while a separate revision of the central business district’s zoning code took nearly that long.
Throughout both those processes, the Plan Commission didn’t just play a part, it was instrumental in the process, hosting public forums and gathering input for the village board, which considered drafts of the ordinance along the way. But the village board was not driving the bus on the effort, nor should it have been.
The village board’s job is to consider complete recommendations placed before it by staff or other village commissions; it’s not the job of the village board to rewrite the code itself. But last Monday night, that was the direction the discussion of fences was heading, complete with the odd political snipe here and there.
The residential zoning code (and commercial zoning code, for that matter) should be dealt with outside of the realm of politics, which means that the Brookfield Plan Commission and staff should work together to establish a code book that will benefit the community as a whole and not respond to the flashpoint of the hour, such as the summer fence-building season.
Of course, rewriting the village’s ordinance book will be a long, tedious slog and may involve getting the kind of professional assistance that Riverside turned to.
But if Brookfield wants to do this right?”and the village has been talking about this for years already?”it’s time to move on it. Instead of waiting around and tweaking, the village ought to move forward comprehensively with a revision of its zoning ordinance book.