Elected officials in Brookfield have called Steven Campbell many names throughout the past decade and a half — some of them not printable in a family newspaper. The Riverside resident and Brookfield property owner has alternately tweaked, goaded, helped and battled with village officials on subjects ranging from zoning laws, building codes and alley assessments.
But Campbell has a new title he might relish when it comes to Brookfield government — landlord.
On May 7, Campbell paid $70,000 to buy a 12,000-square-foot parcel of land at 8800 Ogden Ave., which is the northwest corner of Ogden and Custer avenues. It’s always been a vacant lot, but it’s notable for one reason. The village’s large “Welcome to Brookfield” sign sits on the property.
And the village, at this point, officially doesn’t have permission for the sign to be there.
Back in 2007, when Brookfield bought the new sign with some grant money from the state of Illinois, the village board passed a resolution for an easement agreement with the property’s former owner Carlo Zoppa, who owns Ogden Avenue Car Care and Transmission, next door.
The trouble is that the easement agreement was never filed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Just who dropped the ball is unclear, but it was not a recorded easement when Campbell bought the property, so there’s no agreement on file between the village and the new owner.
Campbell said he learned of the error at the closing on May 7. He said he didn’t buy the property in order to give the village a problem. Rather, he said, the parcel is one of two important gateway properties on the eastern border of the village. And he owns the other, across the street, at 8801 Ogden Ave.
“It’s the eastern gateway into Brookfield,” said Campbell. “I have both corners, and I also own Phoenix Liquors [at 8814 Ogden Ave., on the other side of the car care shop]. I’m pretty well placed to participate in anything they want to do with the gateway.”
Village officials have acknowledged that the easement agreement for the sign never got recorded. They are also unsure what happened to the original notarized copy of the document, which should have gone to the recorder of deeds.
Village Manager Riccardo Ginex said he has a photocopy of the agreement, but not the original. Village Attorney Richard Ramello said he at one time had the original, un-notarized agreement, but that he returned it to Zoppa to get notarized. Who ended up with the notarized copy and was responsible for submitting it to the recorder? No one seems to know.
“I don’t know if we screwed up, because I don’t know if we ever had it,” said Ginex.
Ramello also said he had no record of receiving the original back after it was notarized.
Zoppa said that when the village approached him, he agreed to grant the easement but that the village’s law firm drew up the papers and later asked him to sign it. But he said he never held the paperwork.
“I agreed to what they presented and signed it and gave them the paper back,” said Zoppa. “I didn’t retain anything.”
Later, when Zoppa was considering selling the property to Campbell, he asked the village for a copy of the agreement. After a few weeks, they sent him the photocopy of the agreement.
The long and short of the situation is that the village needs to get a new easement agreement for the sign, from Campbell.
“The village needs to approach the owner and ask for an easement and have some sort of reasonable exchange for it,” Campbell said. “I’m not looking to pick their pocket.”
Zoppa said the easement agreement he had with the village granted Brookfield the use of the property as long as they maintained it and maintained the Custer Avenue frontage of the property.