Officials and lawyers for Riverside-Brookfield High School and the village of Brookfield are tantalizingly close to deal that would settle a lawsuit filed against the village by RBHS and result in a new parking lot north of Hollywood School.
Though there’s still some quibbling over the number of parking spots, officials from RBHS and the village appear to be close to reaching a deal to end the high school’s lawsuit against the village.
“I think we’re close and I think we’re literally trying to figure out what to do with handicapped parking but other than that the pieces are in place to get this finalized,” said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.
On Oct. 10, the village board voted to authorize its attorney, Rich Ramello, to make a settlement offer to RBHS. The offer was to allow a new 45-space parking lot north of Hollywood School where RBHS had desired to build a bigger lot and to renew the long term lease that RBHS has for a parking lot on Rockefeller Ave.
In a statement before the vote authorizing the settlement offer, Brookfield Village President Kit Ketchmark read a statement explaining why the village was making the offer and detailing specifics.
In his statement Ketchmark said the village would agree to allow RBHS “not to exceed 153 parking spots” at a parking lot that combined Rockefeller Avenue and a new lot. The village also offered to renew the lease on the Rockefeller Avenue parking lot for 20 years at $1 per year. This year, RBHS paid the village $13,905 in rent for the Rockefeller lot.
The actual resolution passed by the village board did not contain any specifics of the proposal and did not mention the 153 parking spots number.
RBHS officials reacted favorably to the offer, but wanted to clarify a few issues. When the lawyers began to talk, it appeared that the total number of spaces the village was willing to allow was more like 147 or 148, based on the current configuration of the Rockefeller lot.
The village had come up with the 153 number by adding 45 spaces in a new lot, which the village had previously said that if would accept, to 108 spots on Rockefeller.
There was just one problem. There are only 102 parking spots in the Rockefeller Avenue lot. Ramello counted the number of spaces on Oct. 17.
The original 2007 lease called for 108 spots on Rockefeller Avenue, but in recent years the village of Brookfield has been billing RBHS for 103 spaces. Apparently five spaces or so were lost when two small peninsulas were created in the middle of the lot for a fire hydrant on the north side of the lot and a walkway to the football stadium on the south side of the lot.
Another space was apparently lost to make wider spaces for RBHS minibus parking. Three minibuses are normally parked in the Rockefeller lot.
Ramello clarified to the RBHS that the village offer was for a new 45-space lot plus up to five additional spaces to make up for the spaces that would be lost on Rockefeller because of a curb cut necessary for the new lot.
RBHS officials claimed that the village had changed its offer, but Ketchmark maintains that the village did not.
“We made an offer,” Ketchmark said. “They felt it wasn’t clear. We clarified our offer and we added on five more [parking spots].”
Ramello said that since the original lease in 2007 called for 108 parking spots on Rockefeller that is the number he originally used to get to 153 spots.
“Our view is that we didn’t backtrack, that it’s still 153,” Ramello said. “If you want to you can reconfigure those peninsulas so that you get 108 in there. It’s clear that the original lease was for 108 parking spaces.”
Ramello said that he didn’t know which party caused the number of parking spaces on Rockefeller to drop.
“I haven’t investigated who initiated those, the village or the school district, but the point of the matter is that the village believes if you wanted to you could get 108 spaces there,” Ramello said. “Obviously now it’s going to require some construction if you want take out those two peninsulas there.”
RBHS is also asking the village to permit them to add the three handicapped parking spaces that are required by law, but not to count the handicapped spaces against the number of spaces the village is willing to permit.
Both sides appear frustrated that they are so close but haven’t been able to reach a deal.
“If we could address the three handicapped spaces, I think we were really close to getting this done,” said Skinkis.
Ketchmark pointed out that the school will save about $250,000 with the village essentially renting the Rockefeller lot to RBHS for nothing. School officials appreciated that offer but also felt that they spent more money than necessary to satisfy drainage concerns raised by the village when the built the new football stadium last year.
Ketchmark said that the village wants to settle the lawsuit by Nov. 25, the deadline imposed by the village when it made its settlement offer last month.
“We want to move on,” Ketchmark said. “We’re trying to work together with the school board. We’re trying to work together with the neighborhood. I don’t know if there’s necessarily a happy medium, but you’re trying to come to resolution on it.”
School board members also would like to reach a deal.
“Nobody wants to be in litigation with a neighbor,” school board member Ed Jepson said. “I’m optimistic that cooler heads will prevail on this and that we’ll be able to resolve this.”