You might be tempted to think, in light of the village of Brookfield backing away from controversies over residential driveway aprons and parking restrictions at Eight Corners, that it’s simply a matter of the squeaky wheel getting the oil.
While that may be partially true, it also reflects a change in the way village hall is responding to its constituent residents and business owners.
Brookfield residents have complained for years that village hall simply doesn’t hear them. Or call them back. While customer service was a stated goal and changes were made to help make it a reality, when it came to policy, village hall knew best and didn’t want to hear about it.
The village’s decisions to install new signs restricting parking at Eight Corners and tear out the aprons of residential driveways they deemed code violations were part of that father-knows-best attitude.
News of the signs and apron demolition came with virtually no notice and little explanation.
But there are signs that’s changing.
One thing that’s obvious since the village hired Jay Dalicandro as a management consultant is that he’s interested in solving problems and not simply cramming planning and zoning policies into places where they just might not make sense.
Communicating with the people affected by the policy implementation is part of that strategy.
When the village decided to put up the parking signs at Eight Corners, they didn’t talk to all of the business owners first. It turned out that what was a problem on one end of Broadway was not a problem on the other end. Habits and business requirements evolved over time.
After businesses complained, the village sat down with them and got a better picture of the reality on the street. The result is a change in parking rules. Will those rules evolve again as the area redevelops? Probably, and communication between the village, business owners and residents in the area will be key in maintaining a balance.
As for the driveway aprons, removal of them with no discussion or notice was a hammer blow to homeowners who are about to lose a valuable asset — their driveways. Many of the “driveways to nowhere” predated those owners, and the village saw fit to let them remain intact for decades.
Maybe some of them need to be removed for safety reasons. But doing some advance scouting, identifying potential problems and working with homeowners on a solution is surely a better strategy that simply mailing them a form letter telling them that in two weeks they’ll no longer have a driveway.
Small towns like Brookfield are organic and evolve. The parking rules of 1954 may not suit 2018. But communication is always a key factor in tracking that evolution.
Not many decisions by a local government are universally embraced, but as long as they’re fair and sensible, they’re at least defensible.
It’s much harder to defend my-way-or-the-highway policies that appear to residents and business owners like some sort of punishment for situations they didn’t necessarily create.