Brookfield is another step closer to overhauling its zoning code as it relates to commercial and multi-family residential districts near the village’s three commuter rail stations.

On Nov. 30, the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approving a “form-based” code for the Station Area Zoning Districts which village administrators have been working to rewrite, with the help of a consulting firm, since the spring of 2015.

The project was funded by a grant from the Regional Transportation Authority and focuses on Brookfield’s three main rail hubs – the Congress Park, Prairie Avenue and Hollywood train platforms.

“I’m pleased that finally we have a code, if it does get adopted, that other communities will look to us for instead of us looking to be like this community or that community,” said Charles Grund, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission and a member of the steering committee charged with writing the Station Area code.

“Finally people will say, well Brookfield has adopted one of the more progressive codes around,” he added.

The Brookfield Village Board will have the final say over whether the Station Area code is adopted. Trustees are likely to have their first look at and discussion about the new code at their committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 12, which follows the 6:30 p.m. regular board meeting at the village hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.

Any residents who have concerns or want to give input prior to the board’s vote, which will probably take place in January, can do so at the committee of the whole meeting and prior to a vote for adoption next month.

The proposed Station Area code differs significantly from traditional zoning, which sets fixed standards for things like building height, density, setbacks and allowed uses. The Station Area code is “form-based,” meaning that it defines goals for each particular zoning district in order to encourage specific forms of development that make sense for the areas.

Each of the station areas has different goals for density, uses and building types. There are also design standards in the proposed code. The area near the Congress Park platform includes a broad range of mixed-use residential/commercial buildings, including buildings as tall as six stories.

The Grand/Prairie station area also envisions denser mixed-use developments of up to six stories that would attract restaurants, bars and retail businesses, discourages auto repair uses and seeks to locate office uses to second floors.

The Hollywood station area calls for much less dense development, more residential, pedestrian-oriented development with some retail and office uses on the first floor of buildings no more than three stories tall.

Officials have said that the zoning change will not affect the village’s interior residential districts and, strictly speaking, it won’t. However, Sigita Balzekas, who owns a historic building in the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard that she and her husband would like to restore, said the changes will affect the community.

Balzekas also said she would like to see a more rigorous approval process for developers seeking approvals for new developments in the station areas. The code is written to specifically outline what’s needed for approval in a particular area. 

Anything that falls outside of that framework would be subject to a public zoning review. But, per the proposed code, “the village manager or his/her designee shall review the site plan submittal and approve, reject, or approve with conditions.”

Balzekas suggested the village not do away with a rigorous public review process, even if developers submit development plans that are in line with the Station Area code framework.

“That review process, as unpleasant and costly as it is for developers, really protects property owners and residents,” Balzekas said. “It’s like an extra pair of eyes that allows people to really weigh carefully a plan that’s proposed.

“I hope we don’t open up a can of worms that can’t be stopped.”