There actually seems to be some room for compromise between the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education and the Brookfield Village Board regarding the construction of a parking lot on school-owned land west of the football field.

That both sides can’t come to a meeting of the minds without firing off letters to the community blaming each other for the apparent impasse is really disappointing.

RBHS’ administration and board feel they were wronged when the Brookfield Village Board voted in 2015 to deny it the ability to construct what was then a 91-space parking lot. 

Saying the village’s decision was capricious, particularly given the positive recommendation by the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the high school board asked a judge to force Brookfield to reverse itself.

Frankly, the history of Brookfield is littered with instances where the Brookfield Village Board and its Planning and Zoning Commission have come to opposite conclusions regarding granting zoning variances.

Why the high school immediately turned to a lawsuit is a little puzzling, since clearly the 91-space parking lot that was shot down by the village board appears to have been negotiable in terms of capacity.

In its latest letter to the community, the District 208 board said they had agreed to several provisions suggested by the village, including setback requirements, and scaled the parking lot back to 63 spaces. The village countered with a 45-space parking lot.

At this point both sides appear to have dug in their heels, just 18 spaces apart. We can’t believe this small span in positions can’t be bridged.  

The trouble is, really through no fault of its own (and it must be frustrating, for sure), the high school has the ability to apply very little leverage in a fight they’ve chosen to pick.

Yes, the school owns the property on which they want to build the parking lot and five new tennis courts. The trouble is, they need to use land owned by the village of Brookfield to make it happen at all.

The village created a parking lot along Rockefeller Avenue to accommodate the high school about a decade ago. The school district is frustrated that it doesn’t control that critical parking lot and has slammed the village board for using it as leverage to get the kind of solution the village would like to see.

But that’s what leverage is, isn’t it? In a negotiation, you use the leverage you have to come to an agreement you can live with. The village has lots of leverage; the school district has very little.

Perhaps the school board feels its leverage is the lawsuit and that it has a real chance of winning this case at trial. We think it’s no sure thing at all, and that the school district will have to negotiate with the village either now or months and months later, after the lawsuit is over.

How will dragging out the lawsuit benefit the school district in negotiations later, with respect to this matter or another? 

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