When the Brookfield Village Board approved its landmark Station Area Zoning District code, we supported the concept and still do.
The code relies not on strict sets of measurements – for building height, setback, lot coverage, etc. – but on what the residents of the village would actually like to see built. It talks about types of building, design standards, parking, landscaping, acceptable building materials, commercial uses.
One of the main goals of the new code was to keep from bogging down or disincentivizing developers from coming forward at all because of the prospect of being dragged through a long planning and zoning process, where plans are often redesigned by committee to their detriment.
The Station Area Zoning Code eliminates the tedious review by the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission entirely and leaves approval up to village staff.
That places great responsibility on staff to be as open as possible with the public in regard to what is being proposed and when.
Development companies, being private business, are under no obligation to reveal their plans for a particular property. Rather, development companies like to keep plans under wraps as long as possible, not wanting to endanger any plan before it’s received an OK.
Tartan Builders, a suburban development company, bought an old realty office on Burlington Avenue in Brookfield last summer. Clearly the plan was the redevelop it, but the developer has been reluctant to give out much detail. Totally understandable.
While the company had clearly been kicking around ideas with village planning staff, the range of ideas wasn’t made public. Even that is understandable, since it could be argued that some of the options were not particularly desirable or even being seriously considered.
But when the developer formally asked for the property to be rezoned from a residential use to mixed use, then we feel it’s appropriate for the public to know what’s on the table.
The application for rezoning did not include any plans for exactly what was being planned for the rezoned property. When we asked village staff to see them, they hesitated, wanting to clear it with the development company first.
The plans could still change, we were told, so things were still somewhat preliminary.
So, the Landmark filed a Freedom of Information request and got proposed renderings and site plans of what was being proposed.
It was about what we’d expected – a medium-height, mixed-use development of the type clearly being sought in the Station Area Zoning Code. We shouldn’t have to FOIA those plans.
One of the fears expressed prior to the passage of the updated code was that developments would be sprung on residents, who would have no recourse or input because staff had already given them a seal of approval.
But residents ought to be able to see, ahead of time, what’s coming to their downtown and how it may impact their lives.
When the Station Area Zoning Code was passed we called it something to the effect of “planning for adults.”
That goes for more than just village staff and developers. Residents are adults, too, and should be included in the circle of trust. After all, residents are the ones who will be living with the results.