Brookfield’s village board voted Oct. 10 to have its attorney convey what is essentially a take-it-or-leave-it offer to settle the lawsuit Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 filed against the village last year over the village’s denial of a parking lot to be built on school-owned land north of Hollywood School.
At Monday night’s village board meeting Brookfield President Kit Ketchmark publicly outlined the terms of the village’s offer and put an expiration date of Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. on it.
After that date, said Ketchmark, the “legal process, started by the high school, will play itself out.”
The village is offering to allow the school to build a 45-space parking lot and enter into a long-term lease on the 108-space Rockefeller Avenue parking lot. In addition, the village would expedite the planning and zoning process needed to approve a zoning variance and a special use permit.
In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Ketchmark said the offer is timed to avoid what will start to be very costly litigation once the formal discovery process begins.
“The reason is simple,” said Ketchmark. “Costs are really going to start going up for everybody. The idea is to come to the agreement before the costs start going up.”
RBHS Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said in a phone interview that the high school has not yet seen a formal offer, and that officials first heard of the village’s action when a reporter contacted him and board President Mike Welch on Tuesday.
“As soon as we get a formal document, we will meet with our attorney and the school board will discuss our options,” Skinkis said.
The two sides have been unsuccessful in settling a lawsuit filed by the high school in 2015, shortly after the village board denied an application for zoning variances and a special use permit for the high school to build a 91-space parking lot on land north of Hollywood School.
The village board’s vote overrode a recommendation by the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission to approve the requests, and high school officials argued that the village board’s decision was capricious and the result of pressure from a small but vocal group of neighborhood residents.
In subsequent closed-door talks between the two sides, the high school said it would reduce the size of the new parking lot to 63 spaces and increase the setback between Hollywood Avenue and five new tennis courts, one of which would obscure the view of the parking lot from the street.
But the village said it would only agree to a 45-space lot, and negotiations broke off. The settlement offer outlined by Ketchmark on Oct. 10 states that the village would agree to a 153-space parking lot — 45-spaces in a new parking lot in addition to the 108 parking spaces the high school already uses on Rockefeller Avenue just west of the school.
The village and high school have a lease deal on the Rockefeller parking spaces, which expires in 2017. The village is offering to renew the lease for those 108 parking spots at a cost of $1 per year for the next 20 years.
The 10-year lease signed in 2007 when the Rockefeller lot was created calls for RBHS to pay the village $13,000 per year to use the street as a school parking lot.
“This lease renewal in itself offers the school district a savings of more than a quarter million dollars over the course of the lease term,” Ketchmark said.
If the high school turns down the offer, the lawsuit will proceed until it’s decided, said Ketchmark. While Ketchmark expressed confidence that the village would prevail if the lawsuit went to trial, he also reiterated the village’s threat to end the high school’s use of Rockefeller Avenue as a parking lot if the court approves the 91-space parking lot initially sought by RBHS.
“If they succeed with their addition, the trade-off is they lose the 108 spaces [on Rockefeller Avenue],” Ketchmark said in an interview. “That’s what we’ve said all along.”