Members of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 23 deferred making what could have amounted to a sweeping change in the zoning code related to what kinds of businesses and other uses are allowed in the village’s Eight Corners business district.

Commissioners held off until at least their meeting on Sept. 27 on deciding whether to recommend or modify changes for the commercial zoning district, which sought to eliminate 26 uses from the C-3 district’s use table, including several that already exist and have the potential to draw traffic or produce sales taxes.

Among the permitted or special uses on the chopping block in the district are day care centers, cultural exhibits, artist studios or art instruction, religious assembly, veterinary offices, indoor and outdoor assembly and entertainment, recording studios, fraternal organizations, business/professional offices and gas stations, among others.

The only remaining uses permitted by right would be restaurants and bars, prepared food businesses, multifamily and mixed-use buildings, financial services businesses (except for personal credit businesses), medical/dental/health practitioner offices, personal improvement services (such as hair and nail salons) and pet-grooming businesses.

According to Adam Durkin, the attorney representing the village before the commission, any existing use in the Eight Corners district would be grandfathered in, and the use would run with the land in the future.

But, Jennifer Hendricks, one of the commissioners said she was uncomfortable with recommending “a big potential change for the district” without sufficient notice being given to property owners. 

Prior to the meeting, the only notice to residents was a meeting agenda on the village’s website and a legal notice in the Landmark, published on Aug. 8.

“It makes me uncomfortable that there are potentially property owners in this district that are going to be affected in the future by this, who may not have the opportunity to hear the village present its case and to speak their piece,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks and Commissioner Patrick Benjamin asked why some uses, such as veterinary clinics and indoor entertainment venues — which might be tax revenue generators – were eliminated from the use table.

“A lot of those indoor assembly uses – billiards, video arcades, bowling, things like that – are potential tax-producing properties that might have some really good symbiosis with the middle school that’s there,” Hendricks said, referring to S.E. Gross Middle School, which abuts the C-3 district. “I wonder if that’s really something we want to prohibit.”

But Durkin indicated that the broad prohibition regarding assembly was in response to a wish to prevent future applications for religious assembly in the district. He also said the indoor assembly prohibition would prevent such things as community centers from being built in the C-3 district.

Linda Sokol Francis, who owns several key properties at Eight Corners has, in the past, tried and failed to win approval for a community center/Methodist church at Eight Corners.

If you want to prohibit religious assembly, Durkin said, you have to outlaw all assembly.

“You can’t prohibit certain assemblies and allow other kinds of assemblies, so there’s no real difference between them,” Durkin said. You can’t allow secular kinds of assemblies and prohibit religious assemblies, so if you want to prohibit new religious assemblies from coming in, you have to look at all your other secular assemblies.”

Village staff drafted the proposed changes to the use table after the Brookfield Village Board in April placed a moratorium on applications for special uses, zoning map amendments or text amendments in the Eight Corners district.

“The general intent … is to ‘provide for the development of a concentrated, pedestrian-oriented commercial shopping area,'” said Community and Economic Development Director Nicholas Greifer, reading from the village code.

That moratorium followed on the heels of the village board voting to allow a special use permit for religious assembly at Compassion Factory Art Gallery, 9210 Broadway Ave., which is owned by Compassion United Methodist Church Inc. The congregation, which does not have a formal “church” building, uses the art gallery for a two-hour religious service each Sunday.

The Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended denial of the special use permit for special assembly based on the Brookfield Comprehensive Plan, which envisioned Eight Corners as a pedestrian-oriented retail/commercial district.

But, the Brookfield Village Board voted to reject the commission’s recommendation, indicating that the village would be inviting a lawsuit if the special use permit was denied.

The Rev. Karl Sokol, who owns Compassion Factory Art Gallery and is pastor of Compassion United Methodist Church, said the village’s fixation on preventing a church from sprouting at Eight Corners might result in unintended consequences that would be detrimental to the business district.

Sokol said the village’s comprehensive plan envisions the Eight Corners district as a vibrant area. He pointed to downtown LaGrange as an area that was alive with a diverse mix of uses, from a movie theater to a farmers market to an escape room business to a library – all of which would be prohibited at Eight Corners with the proposed text amendment.

Brookfield’s comprehensive plan calls Eight Corners “one of the most diverse employment nodes” in the village, said Sokol, who suggested waiting until a new village manager was hired before making such sweeping changes at Eight Corners.

“I think everyone in this room knows that it’s kind of directed at everything trying to stop a church, but that can let lots of other opportunities fall by the wayside,” Sokol said.

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