In a community such as Brookfield which has missed waves of development opportunities — both commercial and residential — over a long time stretch, one has to ask why. The current village board and its proactive, planning-focused manager have been working that complex question for some while. And now they are moving jointly to remake the town’s development processes in problem-solving ways.
Why has development often been so hard here? Because of a lack of clarity in what residents want to see built or will accept being built. And because the uncertainty brought on by that lack of clarity has led potential developers to either be chewed up by an unhealthy process or to steer clear of Brookfield entirely.
Brookfield is not alone in this development morass. Not nearly.
But in actions taken early this month by the village board, after years of prep work by Keith Sbiral, the village manager, the current process of rigid but insufficient zoning and often adversarial hearings by zoning and planning bodies has been upended.
In its place in key development areas along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe corridor, the village has now adopted what is called a “form-based” zoning code that is far more descriptive and specific of the type of development the village and, presumably, its residents want to see built. The new code for these specific areas spells out the kind of development being sought, the density that will be allowed, the parking that will be required, the design standards expected and land-use requirements that will be imposed.
If a developer comes forward with a plan that lives within those ranges — say, mixed use, no more than five stories, built of quality materials, with adequate parking and setbacks — then the developer can build that project by right. A developer won’t need special zoning variances, endless meetings, often with frustrated residents, or multiple expensive calls on architects for endless revisions.
This is development for thoughtful adults who want to see progress that is true to community values and expectations.
Good for Brookfield.