There will be no churches or fraternal organizations allowed in the Eight Corners area of Brookfield if a zoning change recommended by the village’s Planning and Zoning last week is approved by the village board next year. 

On Dec. 13 the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4- 2 to approve a text amendment to the village’s zoning code that would not allow a church or any other kind of assembly use in the Eight Corners business district. 

The change in the zoning code would not affect the special use permit granted in April allowing religious services to take place at the Compassion Factory Art Gallery, located at 9210 Broadway, which is owned by Compassion United Methodist Church Inc. 

The pastor of Compassion United Methodist Church is the Rev. Karl Sokol, whose mother, Linda Sokol Francis, has talked of wanting to establish a church near Eight Corners. 

The text amendment was proposed by the village in apparent reaction to those efforts. 

In order to survive a legal challenge, the village could not just ban churches in the Eight Corners business district. The amendment prohibits all assembly uses, so that it treats religious and non-religious uses identically.

Planning and zoning commissioners tweaked the language of the proposed text amendment prior to voting on it. The change, proposed by commissioner Jennifer Hendricks, created a separate “entertainment and culture” use, separate from assembly. The village’s original proposal had grouped entertainment and culture with assembly as prohibited uses at Eight Corners. 

Although Hendricks ultimately opposed the text amendment, she said separating entertainment and culture from other forms of assembly improved it by allowing uses such as gaming arcades and climbing spaces in the Eight Corners district.

“I believed that the change was going to pass,” Hendricks said. “I wanted to make sure it was the best change that it could be. I really was very concerned about the entertainment pieces.”

Hendricks and fellow commissioner Chris Straka both voted against final passage of the text amendment, saying that they do not believe that assembly uses, which includes churches and fraternal organizations, should be flatly prohibited from the Eight Corners business district.

“I do believe that assembly should be allowed as a special use,” Hendricks said. “I don’t feel right about prohibiting it.” 

Straka agreed.

“I think assembly should be permitted as special use,” Straka said. “I think it brings the community together.”

Nicholas Greifer, the village’s community and economic development director said in a staff report that the text amendment will further the goal of promoting Eight Corners as a “concentrated pedestrian oriented shopping area” which is what is desired for the commercial district, according to the village’s comprehensive plan.

Commission members who voted to approve the amendment said that the changes will promote a vibrant business district.

“It advances the long-term goals of the district,” said commission member Todd Svoboda.

Commission member Mark Weber agreed and said the village will still have some flexibility to grant special use permits.

“I think that it will offer a fair, open set of rules to begin with,” Weber said. “If any unusual or specific requests come along, it allows the village a chance to offer its input and input of the residents to planning and zoning commission.”

The village board will likely discuss the text amendment at its Jan. 14, 2019 meeting. The changes to the zoning code must be approved by the village board before they become law.