A couple of weeks ago, the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission correctly pushed back on village staff’s recommendations for rewriting the land use table for the Eight Corners business district.
While we understand staff’s concern here about wanting to prevent a church from being the dominant feature of what they envision as a pedestrian-oriented mixed-use commercial district – there is a good deal of land at Eight Corners that is either owned by the Methodist church or by a person who has demonstrated a willingness to buy and donate property in the area to the church – the proposed rewrite is overly restrictive.
Essentially, the village’s proposal would eliminate all but a narrow set of commercial uses at Eight Corners, skewing strongly toward food-and-drink establishments. But the amendment would also outlaw perfectly appropriate uses for such a district – entertainment businesses like video arcades, bowling alleys, a community center, live music venues, art-related uses such as artist studios and schools.
Those kinds of businesses not only draw the very kind of pedestrian traffic the village seeks to create at Eight Corners, some of those businesses already exist and are welcome additions to the district.
There is some fear that Linda Sokol Francis, whose purchases of key locations in and around Eight Corners has made her one of the district’s most important land owners, is committed to making Eight Corners into some sort of religious mission.
It’s true she has advocated for building a church/community center on land she and the Methodist church own in the 3400 block of Grand Boulevard. She would still like that dream to come true.
But with respect to other properties she has purchased at Eight Corners, while she may see those properties as an extension of the Methodist church’s mission, she has also proposed using them for exactly the kinds of commercial purposes the village would like to see at Eight Corners.
That it’s taking some time to get those businesses off the ground is disappointing, sure, but we don’t doubt Francis’ sincerity in wanting to bring viable, desirable businesses to the district.
And while some may be unhappy with the fact that the Compassion Factory art gallery also bears a sign indicating it is also the home of Compassion United Methodist Church, the village board granted that use to the property.
On the whole, Compassion Factory in its short time in existence has been an asset, providing cultural, social and educational benefits that didn’t exist before, or at least for years, at Eight Corners.
Finally, for those worried about the church’s or Francis’ influence at Eight Corners, the fact is that anyone could have bought the properties there, including the village. But no one else did.
We see no reason for the village to attempt an end around by eliminating many appropriate uses at Eight Corners as a way to prevent Francis’ original vision of a community center/church from being built at Eight Corners.
Will that vision ever become reality? We have no idea, but in the meantime there’s no reason to install unnecessary roadblocks for remaking Eight Corners into a thriving commercial district.