There won’t be a new parking lot north of Hollywood School after all.
On Monday night the Brookfield Village Board voted 5 to 1 against granting Riverside-Brookfield High School a special use permit and a zoning variance that would have allowed the school to move its tennis courts south next to Hollywood School and construct a 91-space parking lot where the tennis courts currently sit.
Trustee Ryan Evans cast the only vote in favor of granting the special use permit and variances.
The vote, which came almost seven weeks after the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission recommended granting the variance and special use permit, surprised and delighted most of the 40 or so people, many of whom live in the Hollywood neighborhood, who attended the meeting of the village board.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Hollywood resident Sam Levin who before the vote delivered a lengthy statement, in which he said the approval of the parking lot was a done deal and that both the village board and the Planning and Zoning Commission were biased in favor the high school.
But after the vote Levin praised the village board.
“I’m elated,” Levin said. “It took a tremendous amount of courage by the board.”
Other Hollywood residents, who had complained at in multiple public forums of increased traffic, potential flooding and the loss of green space, had the same reaction.
“I’m ecstatic that the board voted the way it did and that our community came together and was able to make this happen,” said Sue Gersch, the co-president of Hollywood School PTA.
Many village board members were reluctant to comment after the vote.
C.P. Hall, a Hollywood resident who was participating in his last village board meeting, said that he made up his mind to vote no at the moment he voted.
“I went over there twice, two days in a row to watch the traffic go by Hollywood School,” Hall said. “Mr. Levin talked about sophistry. I think there was sophistry on both sides.”
In an email to the Landmark on Tuesday, Trustee Nicole Gilhooley said the plan left too many concerns.
“It was my responsibility to look at not only the school’s proposal and the resolution of the commission but at the long-term overall quality of life of the residents of Brookfield neighboring the school who could be negatively affected by the project,” Gilhooley said. “I had some doubts about the proposed project with regard to storm water management and traffic safety. I would have liked to see alternative solutions more thoroughly explored.”
Village President Kit Ketchmark, who in his role as village president did not vote on the motion, talked at length about the decision after the vote.
“I think the board voted appropriate to what was presented to us,” said Ketchmark, who also lives in Hollywood. “Certainly there were concerns in the neighborhood.”
Before the village board voted Ketchmark read an approximately 13-minute long statement that reviewed the issues but left many wondering exactly where he stood.
In his statement before the vote and again after the meeting, Ketchmark called for other governmental bodies to get involved and work with the high school to come up with a better solution to the school’s parking issues.
“It’s not our issue to solve,” Ketchmark said. “And whether it’s the traffic in the neighborhood it relates to Brookfield Zoo, it relates to District 96, it relates to the village of Riverside and there wasn’t any comment from them. I ask Riverside-Brookfield High School what their next step is, and if they have any other projects in the works where this parking lot will be going.”
What’s next for RB?
“I think that’s for the [school] board to decide,” said Skinkis, who called the village board’s vote decisive. “This just shows that they were pretty strongly against it.”
Sitting with Skinkis in the audience watching the village board vote down the school’s plan were four school board members and Principal Kristin Smetana.
The vote does not affect RBHS’ plan to build a new stadium with new artificial turf, a new running track and a new locker room building. That construction will move ahead.
Ketchmark said that the constant presence and comments from Hollywood residents were noticed, but that didn’t necessarily influence the vote.
“We hear them,” Ketchmark said. “I don’t see that it necessarily swayed a vote. It presents a lot of information to you certainly. We try to give a fair hearing to whatever comes before us.”