Say you’ve got a question regarding where on your property you can build a garage. Or maybe you’re looking to open a restaurant and you’d like to find out how much a liquor license is going to run you. Or maybe you’re thinking about raising goats, and you’re wondering — apart from what the neighbors will think — if it’s even legal.
Right now, you have to call village hall or take a trip over there, pose the question to a staffer and have that person thumb through a 900-page tome to find the answer.
But by mid-January Brookfield residents, business owners or prospective investors and developers will be able to find all of that information online in the form of a fully searchable, easy-to-navigate municipal code.
“There’s no internal change we’ve made that’s more significant than to have this code online,” said Brookfield Assistant Manager Keith Sbiral, who is also the director of the village’s Building and Planning Department. “Nothing comes close.”
At a special meeting of the Brookfield village board on Dec. 16, trustees voted to adopt a book of ordinances that has been systematically codified for the first time since 1965. The village’s Plan Commission voted to recommend approval of numbering changes made to the zoning code at a meeting on Dec. 5.
The process, which began in 2009, was handled by Sbiral, Assistant Village Clerk Theresa Coady, and an attorney from the village’s law firm.
“It’s taken a lot of research back through the codes,” said Sbiral. “We hand-checked every ordinance change since 1965 and made sure those conformed to state statutes.”
Monday’s vote will allow Sbiral to send the code book to a company called Municode, which will complete page layout for a handful of print editions of the municipal code and put the code online. When it goes live next month, there will be a direct link to the code on the village of Brookfield website.
“We tried not to make substantial changes to the code,” said Sbiral. “What we will have now is a relatively modernized code.”
Everything from zoning to liquor laws will be included in the online document. In addition, there will be a master list for fees the village charges for permits and fines. While no laws have been changed, there have been changes in some terminology to make sure the entire code is consistent.
“People want to know this information and right now you have to go to the paper copy every time,” said Sbiral. “This is going to be a night-and-day difference.”
With the move of the code online, Brookfield will maintain ongoing contract with Municode to update the village code as laws are revised or added over time. Once the village board passes an ordinance that’s codifyable (bond issuance, for example, would not be codified) the text will be sent to Municode, which will make the requisite changes in the code and put those changes online within two weeks.
“This will make it so much easier to update ordinances going forward,” Sbiral said.
The municipal codes for Riverside and North Riverside have been online for years.
Brookfield initially budgeted $35,000 for the project. In the end, according to Sbiral, the village will spend about $20,000 on the project, excluding legal fees it’s paying to its law firm.
“It’s been a difficult project with no glamor to it,” said Sbiral, “but it’s great.”