When the Brookfield village board passed a law in 2008 that prohibited new curb cuts in residential neighborhoods, it did so to prevent a proliferation of driveways in areas where alleys provided access to garages and rear yard parking pads.
Limiting the number of driveways would preserve pedestrian safety and prevent vehicles from parking on driveways in what essentially were front yards. The ordinance also allowed the village to resolve some longstanding property maintenance issues; since that time the village has removed existing driveways that led to structures which formerly were garages but had been converted into living spaces.
But the blanket prohibition also had some unintended consequences.
For the Ramos family, which lives in the 3600 block of Grand Boulevard, it meant they couldn’t build a new garage where one now exists next to the alley, because the odd-shaped lot narrows dramatically there.
The Ramoses have plenty of space to build a garage on their lot, it’s just that they needed a curb cut to Grand Boulevard to do it. And village law prohibited it.
The garage that’s currently there is a one-car cinder block structure, and it’s angled toward the alley in such a way that makes entry to the garage difficult. When it snows, the garage is unusable, says Rosa Ramos, who has lived in the home with her husband, Jeffrey, and their kids since 2003.
“It’s a big deal,” said Rosa. “When it snows you have to find somewhere else to put the car.”
While the family has considered a new garage through the years, they believed the curb cut law would always stand in the way. But this year, they enlisted the help of a friend, who is an architect, to approach the village about a solution that involved a curb cut.
The result, is that in August, the village board is expected to amend the curb cut law to allow them in specific instances, like the Ramos property, where the alley access is so narrow — 10.4 feet in the Ramos’ instance — that a curb cut can be allowed.
Under the new law, anyone with alley access less than 15 feet would qualify for a curb cut to build a driveway to the street. It won’t affect that many properties in the village, according to Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who heads up the village’s building department. But it will provide relief for homeowners like the Ramoses, who live on those odd, flag-shaped lots near the ends of blocks along the length of Grand Boulevard.
“If you were to put a driveway on that type of a [lot leading to a garage], you’d have to end up paving a vast majority of the lot just to get the car down and around and into the garage,” Sbiral said.
Such a solution, paving over a large percentage of the lot, would have more impact on the property than allowing a driveway, Sbiral said.
Rosa Ramos said that the family may or may not end up building a new two-car garage this year if the village board OKs the change in the law, but it will at least provide the ability to do so at any time in the future.
“It’s not like we’re asking to build something crazy,” Ramos said.
Village trustees are expected to vote on the proposed curb cut amendment at their meeting on Aug. 26.