The “Welcome to Brookfield” sign, a version of which has been a staple on the northwest corner of Ogden and Custer avenues since at least the 1980s, is about to disappear.
As of May 27, the village had 60 days to remove the sign following an out-of-court settlement between Brookfield and the owner of the property, Steven Campbell. The agreement ended a year-long battle over whether the village had a legal easement for the sign.
In the end, as Campbell contended, since he bought the property on May 7, 2013, that the village didn’t.
“The village felt it had a valid easement agreement,” said Brookfield Village Manager Riccardo Ginex. “We’ll just take it out and put it somewhere else on our property on Ogden or elsewhere.”
Campbell said he never intended to force the village to remove the sign. But he did want to use the sign as leverage.
A couple of weeks after acquiring the property, Campbell emailed Ginex to let him know he’d be interested in working out a new easement agreement. But first, he said, he’d need to be convinced that the village was going to make good on its promise to install a pump station near the intersection of Washington and Prairie avenues — where Campbell owns a residential property — to address flooding.
He also made it clear that since the village didn’t have a valid easement, he didn’t want any village employees on his property to maintain it.
The whole problem stemmed from a failure by the village in 2007 to have an easement agreement recorded by the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. In that year, the village got the OK from a previous owner for a sign easement, and the village board passed a resolution cementing the deal. But the legal document never got filed with the county recorder.
Campbell said he assumed the agreement was in place but found out about the lack of recorded easement when he closed on the property.
In June 2013, Village Attorney Richard Ramello notified Campbell that the village believed it had a valid easement despite the failure to record it. At that point, Campbell ordered the village to remove the sign by the end of the month or he’d consider it abandoned property.
“It wasn’t that I wanted them to take the sign down,” said Campbell. “Since 1997, I have been aware that they’ve been flooding my neighborhood [at Washington and Prairie]. They turned it around and came hunting me.”
Ginex denied that the village was trying to bully Campbell into recognizing the 2007 easement, which would have given the village a perpetual, exclusive easement measuring 23 feet on Ogden and Custer avenues.
“Of all the people to pick on for property rights,” said Campbell, who has battled village hall for more than a decade over such issues. “The government gets to pay for land when they take it.”
On June 27, 2013, the village filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court asking for a temporary restraining order. In August 2013, the village filed a lawsuit asking a judge to enforce the 2007 easement agreement, which had never been recorded.
Campbell ridiculed the lawsuit, saying it contained numerous errors, including misidentifying the parcel’s address and legal description.
“It referred to the property incorrectly and had the trust number wrong,” said Campbell. “Then I found out the  easement agreement had the wrong legal description; their resolution had the wrong legal description.
“It’s the sloppiest legal work I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Initially, Campbell called for the village to pay his legal fees related to the lawsuit. The final settlement states that each side will pay its own legal fees, and both parties have agreed to not sue each other again over the issue.
Information on what Brookfield paid to litigate the case was not immediately available.
Asked what he plans for the corner property once the village removes its sign, Campbell said he’d like to put up his own “Welcome to Brookfield” sign. That, however, would require a permit, and Campbell said he doesn’t think the village would be likely to agree to it.
In the meantime, he’s using the property for parking for nearby Dunav Restaurant and Phoenix Liquors, which are housed in buildings he owns, and for the auto repair shop next door, whose owner sold Campbell the corner property last year.