The Brookfield Village Board on March 28 voted unanimously to approve the final development plan for a new Brookfield Public Library, paving the way for a referendum later this year to help fund the construction.

But while village trustees voted 6 to 0 in favor of the plan, with the board approving many of the changes to the ordinance language sought by library officials, it didn’t approve one provision the library had sought — a 60-month time frame in which to obtain building permits for the new building.

Instead, the village board approved an ordinance that will give the library board 48 months to obtain permits. The library may also apply for a one-year extension, which would still give them five years, if approved.

Building permits are good for six months, with the ability to extend them another six months. As a result, village trustees reasoned, the library had plenty of time to get funding for a new building approved and to get it built.

Prior to the village board’s vote on March 28, the library board’s attorney, Roger Ritzman, urged trustees to approve a 60-month extension, plus the ability to request a one-year extension.

Ritzman referenced the unanimous decision by the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission in February that called for such language in the contract.

But members of the village board disagreed with such a lengthy time frame to get the building funded and built. Had they approved the language, it would effectively have given the library another seven years — until 2023 — to complete the new building. The library began its planning process in 2012.

Village President Kit Ketchmark remarked that the extension as approved would still be “the longest ever granted by the village board.” Under the village’s zoning code, anyone granted approval for a planned unit development has two years to obtain building permits, with the ability to ask for a third year.

Trustee Michael Garvey said that if a private developer had come to the village board asking for such an extension, he wouldn’t have agreed to it.

“Four years is probably about as far as I would go [for the library],” said Garvey. “Five years from tonight gets us to March 2021. We judged this project on the standards that are in place now. I’m reluctant to tie the hands of future boards to judge projects.”

Trustee Ryan Evans agreed, saying that if the library couldn’t reach its funding goal in five years, the project probably was doomed in any case.

“If funding could not be secured before four years, the people would have spoken,” Evans said. “Four years from now, the process should be moving forward.”

That sentiment was echoed by Trustee Michelle Ryan, who said that changes over the next five to seven years could change the way a future board might view the plan approved on Monday.

“After five years you’d want to reassess [the plan] not because the plan changes, but because the world changes,” Ryan said. “Four years plus one year is still five years. Beyond that, how far do you go?”

Despite not getting the full 60-month time period for obtaining building permits, library officials were happy to draw a curtain on the village’s planned development process, which has taken at least six months longer than anyone imagined.

“During the public comment section that lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, village leaders had the opportunity to hear from library supporters about the critical role the library plays in Brookfield,” said library board Vice President Dianne Duner, who was one of the dozen or so people to speak before the village board voted to approve the plan.

“Residents offered personal stories to demonstrate to the village leadership that their community library is not a luxury, but a necessity. We thank village trustees for unanimously passing the final planned development in an ordinance that incorporated the language modifications desired by the library. And we thank our residents for their advocacy and time.”

While the full time extension wasn’t approved, the library was able to convince the Planning and Zoning Commission and village board to soften ordinance language regarding design elements, the use of materials and the inclusion of an electric car charging station. 

And the library retains far greater flexibility regarding the implementation of sustainable building practices than the Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended initially.

Now library officials must begin what may be the hardest job of all, convincing voters to approve a construction bond referendum to get the new library built. 

While the library has floated possible figures for the referendum in the past, library officials will announce that referendum request during their fourth and final community engagement session, which is scheduled for Tuesday, April 19 at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Public Library, 3609 Grand Blvd.

The session will feature Linda Matkowski, executive vice president of City Services Corporation, who serves as the library board’s financial consultant and will focus on the library’s “financial landscape,” according to Library Director Kimberly Coughran.

If trustees want to make sure a referendum question gets on the November 2016 ballot, it must finalize the question during the summer. The village board must vote to pass an ordinance regarding the matter in enough time that a question can be submitted to the Cook County Clerk before the Aug. 31 deadline for the November election.

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