The Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees on June 4 abruptly changed its preferred design for expanding the existing library after learning that the village board would not favor any plan resulting in the complete closure of Lincoln Avenue.
Library board President Linda Kampschroeder told members of the board at a special meeting Monday night that Village President Kit Ketchmark told her during a phone conversation on May 24 that the village board wouldn’t support a design that involved closing Lincoln Avenue.
“I did have that call to Kit Ketchmark and, basically, closing Lincoln is a non-starter,” said Kampschroeder, who indicated that the issue regarding Lincoln Avenue was not Ketchmark’s personal opinion; rather, she suggested that Ketchmark polled members of the village board on the issue privately before imparting their message to the library.
“He stayed on message,” Kampschroeder said. “He knew before he called me up what the call was about and what he wanted to say. And he did not go off message.”
Ketchmark, in a phone interview with the Landmark on Tuesday morning, called any implication that he had somehow improperly polled trustees before calling Kampschroeder “ridiculous.”
The reason he knew closing Lincoln Avenue would be problematic, Ketchmark said, is that the village board, several of whom remain trustees, had already wrestled with that very issue when the library proposed a new facility several years ago.
In that instance, the village and library officials figured out a way to reroute Lincoln Avenue through a parking lot to Grand Boulevard, a main thoroughfare. The library’s latest preferred plan would not have allowed that and could have increased traffic on Park Avenue, a residential street, or in the alley behind it.
“This time, in terms of simply closing it down, I didn’t think it would work,” Ketchmark said.
Library trustees had preferred that option because it would have allowed them to build a structure capable of further expansion in the future.
Library officials and their architects said they had been working under the assumption that the village had not taken an explicit position regarding the closure of Lincoln Avenue since meeting with Village Planner Emily Egan on April 30.
Emails between village and library officials obtained by the Landmark after the library’s June 4 meeting indicate the village might favor closure of Lincoln Avenue, as long as certain benchmarks were reached.
In a May 4 email from Egan to library officials and their architects, the planner said closing Lincoln “is a strong possibility, but it depends on the site design, traffic flow and other considerations. Getting all of that right is what would warrant the street closure.”
Library officials apparently took that as a good sign, and architect Tiffany Nash followed up a day later, asking for another meeting in early June regarding the elements Egan enumerated.
In Library Director Kim Coughran’s report to library trustees for their May meeting, she outlined the meeting with Egan, which touched on a variety of issues, including the village vacating a portion of Lincoln Avenue.
“Emily did not see any problems or issues with the closure of Lincoln, especially since we have already been down this path with the new building proposal,” Coughran wrote, referring to the plan for a new library, which vacated Lincoln Avenue and rerouted it.
That plan was approved by both the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the village board. The plan was scrapped after residents defeated a 2016 referendum to issue bonds to build it.
On May 23, however, library officials learned their preferred plan was in trouble via a misdirected email from Jay Dalicandro, the village’s interim management consultant to the architect, Nash. The email, meant for Egan, asked her to “be careful in what you say to them as a representative of the village. Not sure the village board supports their expansion plans.”
Dalicandro suggested that library representatives present the idea of closing Lincoln Avenue to village trustees at a village board Committee of the Whole meeting.
Later that morning, Dalicandro acknowledged the mistake in a follow-up email to Nash and suggested the street vacation be brought to the village at a meeting in June.
“I hope my response is not misconstrued as any negative impact on this project,” Dalicandro wrote to Nash.
Ketchmark said Dalicandro was right in suggesting library officials meet with village trustees at a public meeting to discuss possible closure of Lincoln Avenue.
“We thought the best way was to come to the Committee of the Whole to discuss what they wanted to do because simply closing [Lincoln Avenue] wasn’t a workable option,” Ketchmark said.
In the wake of Kampschroeder’s conversation with Ketchmark, library trustees have decided to abandon their preferred plan in favor of a design that won’t require closing Lincoln Avenue at all.
The new roughly $8.7 million preferred plan calls for additions — including the basement, first floor and a new second floor — totaling 11,400 square feet to be constructed along the length of the Lincoln Avenue façade.
Parking would be located on the library-owned land across Lincoln Avenue. The plan would still require special use permits and some zoning variations that would need village board approval.
At least one library trustee, Jennifer Mack Perry, said she agreed that closing Lincoln Avenue entirely was not a good solution and may have stirred up opposition from neighbors.
“It really isn’t workable,” Perry said. “I think you’re going to get a lot of opposition from the neighbors because we’re not giving a real option for traffic. I don’t blame them for being unhappy about that.”
New option: Brookfield Public Library trustees are considering a new expansion option (see graphic below), based on information from Village President Kit Ketchmark that closing off Lincoln Avenue would likely not receive the support of the village board. The plan calls for expanding the library to the north along the Lincoln Avenue facade on three levels, adding 11,400 square feet of space at a cost of abut $8.7 million. The option would preclude having to close Lincoln Avenue.