The Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5 to 0 Thursday evening to recommend approving plans for a new public library, but encouraged the library to incorporate as many sustainable practices in its proposed new building as possible. 

The new library would be built across Lincoln Avenue from the current library at 3541 Park Ave., on land the library purchased in 2012 from the Brookfield United Methodist Church. The church has been demolished.

Now the commission’s recommendation will head to the Brookfield village board for a final vote. If the village board gives its blessing, it will be up to the library to secure funding through a property tax referendum. That referendum is expected to come before voters in November 2016.

The plans approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission are for a slightly smaller building than the village approved in 2012. The most recent plans call for a two-story, 31,975-square-foot building, down from the 38,600-square-foot preliminary plan approved in 2012. 

Library officials decided to set the building farther from the northern property line, allowing for more space between the new building and homes to the north.

Although the Planning and Zoning Commission pushed the library to include as many sustainable and environmentally friendly elements, the commission rejected village staff’s recommendation that the new library achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Planning and zoning commission member Jennifer Hendricks said that she didn’t think the village should require LEED certification for the library when it didn’t achieve that certification for recent renovations at village hall.

“I’d like to see before the village requires it of other public agencies, the village should do it itself,” Hendricks said.

Planning and Zoning Commission member Karen Miller pushed the library to incorporate more sustainable elements, such as an electric car recharging station in its parking lot, carpeting made of recyclable materials and outdoor benches made out of recycled plastic instead of wood.

“In some instances they do cost more up front, but in the end they do end up saving money,” Miller said. “It’s also good to be a model for the community: to show the residents and community what can be done.”

Library Director Kimberly Coughran was happy that the plan was approved and relieved that LEED certification was not mandated. 

“While the Library has planned for as many efficiencies as possible in the new facility, we agree with the commission’s conclusion that the village shouldn’t mandate LEED certification for other governmental bodies if the village itself isn’t serving as a role model in this capacity,” Coughran said in an emailed statement. “Removing the LEED certification suggestion by village staff and replacing it with the plan to continue to incorporate as many efficiencies as possible on an informal basis is not only appropriate but a substantial savings to the Brookfield community since LEED costs are exorbitant.” 

Planning commission members weren’t crazy about the design of the proposed new library, especially the tower. Chairman Charles Grund could not be at the meeting, but he had his comments read into the record.

“The tower element is too big in mass compared to the overall massing,” Grund said. “It seems the building is a conglomeration of various building designs. A move to a more unified Prairie Style design would be welcome.”

Grund also complained about metal siding on the north side of the building.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Hollywood resident Sam Levin harshly criticized the plan to demolish the existing library. 

“The demolition and destruction of the current library, a building that is structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing to its surroundings is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” Levin said. “The library should go back to the drawing board and create a plan that incorporates the current library and builds a smaller structure with parking on the vacant property across the street.”

Levin called the proposed new library a “Taj Mahal.”

“Brookfield is not LaGrange with its wealthy residents,” Levin said. “Brookfield is not North Riverside or McCook with their lucrative commercial and industrial tax base. Brookfield is a modest and unpretentious community with many residents struggling to make ends meet as well as many residents on a fixed income. Please don’t dislocate them from their homes in order to feed the ego of a library board that is out of touch with the economic realities of the community that it serves.”

However, Brookfield resident Jonathan Platt, a former library board president, told the commission that the library board had considered adding on another floor to the existing building, but was told by numerous architects that it couldn’t be done without additional, expensive structural support. Platt also said that the current building has cracks in its foundation.

Library board member Linda Kampschroeder told the commission that a new library would make Brookfield more attractive to potential home buyers and help keep current residents from moving away. 

She said that a library plays an important role in a town and noted that the library often has to turn people away from its programs because of the lack of space.

“It functions as a cultural and social hub for the community as well as an education hub,” Kampschroeder said. “We really need this new facility to do that effectively. We have turned away almost 800 people, because we didn’t have room for them in the programs that we have.”

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