Brookfield trustees threw cold water on the Brookfield Public Library board’s proposal for a new library campus at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Park Avenue on Aug. 27, specifically over traffic problems that might be created by vacating Lincoln Avenue in front of the new building.
No member of the village board expressed support for the plan as it was presented in July to the Plan Commission, which recommended approving the library’s preliminary planned development.
While the village board made no formal vote on that recommendation, it appeared likely after discussion Aug. 27 among village trustees that the proposal will be shipped back to the Plan Commission for further review.
At least three trustees expressed clear reservations with the plan regarding its effect on traffic flow in the neighborhood.
“If we are taking this plan simply as the way it is now … I don’t know if I can go along with that,” said Trustee Kit Ketchmark.
The village board directed library staff to address the traffic situation as it related to their request for the village to vacate Lincoln Avenue and return on Sept. 10 for more discussion. If what is proposed is deemed s significant alteration to the site plan recommended by the Plan Commission in July, it will have to go through the public hearing process.
Library officials, who have still not purchased the property slated for the new library building, want to avoid a drawn-out process.
“We want to avoid starting over again,” said Roger Ritzman, the library board’s attorney, who served as their primary spokesman at the village board meeting on Aug. 27. “We’re trying to get a deal done with the church, and there’s no sense if we can’t get the plan done.”
The Brookfield Public Library board has had a deal in place since March to purchase the former Brookfield United Methodist Church at 3541 Park Ave. The property sits directly across Lincoln Avenue from the present library building at 3601 Grand Blvd.
Dewberry, an architectural firm, has proposed building a 38,500-square-foot library on the church site, demolishing the current library and having the village vacate Lincoln Avenue between Oak and Grand.
Doing so would allow the library to construct a large public green space in front of the new library entrance along with a 50-space parking lot. However, the plan would make Lincoln Avenue dead end at the parking lot, forcing west bound traffic either through the parking lot to get to Grand Boulevard or north on Oak Avenue.
“This will create a lot of congestion,” said Mary Ann Swon, who lives in the 3500 block of Oak Avenue. “Our quality of life is going to be very much affected. I’m also worried about traffic in the alley.”
Residents living on the west side of the 3500 block of Oak Avenue like Penny Maroney fear that the alley behind their homes would also become a de facto thoroughfare, since the parking lot empties directly into it.
“I’m not happy going through a parking lot to get to Grand and I’m not happy my alley is going to be a thoroughfare, or Oak Avenue,” Maroney said.
Other residents, like William and Don Urban, objected to the scale of the development and what they felt were an excessive number of zoning variations needed to make the plan happen.
“The site is not suitable for this venture,” William Urban said. “There are alternate sites with less impact. The site doesn’t support that kind of structure.”
Village trustees did not express any particular issue with the scale or design of the proposed library. Their discussion centered on the issue of traffic circulation and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
“My concern is the traffic, not the proposed building,” said Trustee Ryan Evans.
Trustees suggested perhaps making Lincoln Avenue into a two-way street between Oak and Sunnyside avenues to allow residents a way to avoid the area around the library, but the street is very narrow.
Trustee Brian Oberhauser suggested keeping Lincoln Avenue open to traffic. While that would eliminate the public plaza in front of the new library as well as a drop-off area, it would keep parking on the street that’s there now and avoid the congestion issues.
“If Lincoln stays open, maybe that would be acceptable to the rest of the board,” said Oberhauser.
That kind of a change in the site plan would clearly necessitate the proposal going back to the Plan Commission. While library officials want to avoid that, village trustees didn’t seem as concerned.
“The library buying the church is not my problem,” said Trustee Michael Towner. “The neighborhood is.”