Churches are supposed to bring the community together, yet the debate over Rev. Sokol’s plans for Eight Corners has undoubtedly been divisive for Brookfield.
It is a shame that less than a year after his initial SUP was approved, it appears Rev. Sokol wants to continue this battle with the village and members of this community by reneging on some of the promises and claims he and his congregation made during the special-use permit process for the Compassion Factory.
Rev Sokol assured us the Compassion Factory would remain a tax-generating business for years to come; he now wants to turn the Compassion Factory into a 501c3 non-profit, thus taking much-needed existing property tax revenue from the village, our schools and the TIF district. He omitted the fact that the special-use permit for the Compassion Factory was clearly nothing more than a temporary plan.
Time and time again, the Sokols have implied that the guidelines and economic development goals for Eight Corners (that have been in village’s comprehensive plan since 2004) somehow do not apply to them.
Rev. Sokol has even claimed that it is his constitutional right to build his church where he wants, but churches and the Sokols are not exempt from zoning and land use laws, especially when the village has a “compelling interest” like attracting new businesses to a commercial district and growing the tax base.
There is nothing in the village code preventing Rev. Sokol from building elsewhere in the village where it wouldn’t hurt the tax base and the village’s economic development goals, so his rights are not being infringed upon despite his claims.
In fact, Rev. Sokol’s latest plan would allow his church to directly benefit from TIF funds – taxpayer money intended for businesses, not churches – while also directly taking revenue away from the TIF district via property tax exemptions and derailing the overall purpose of the TIF district.
That does not seem right or fair, especially for businesses in Eight Corners, and it raises legitimate questions about separation of church and state.
The Sokols have willfully left a prime commercial redevelopment site vacant for nearly a decade, and the taxpayers and business owners in Brookfield have paid the price. I cringe at the thought of all of the business and redevelopment opportunities we may have missed out on in Eight Corners over the last decade during the most lucrative development cycles in my lifetime.
Instead of new retail space and housing generating additional tax revenue in Eight Corners and spurring additional redevelopment, we have a vacant lot, an eyesore of a parking lot, boarded up stores (almost all owned by the Sokols) and now these plans that would hurt the coffers of our village, our schools and the newly created TIF fund.
Our property tax bills keep rising with no relief in sight, our streets are crumbling and our alleys have become popular fishing spots.
Brookfield’s best option to alleviate some of the tax burden on homeowners is to seek additional revenue through sales taxes from new businesses and adding properties to the tax base through redevelopment, not through taking potentially lucrative commercial properties and redevelopment opportunities off of the tax rolls as Rev. Sokol has proposed.
Rev Sokol’s latest plans will undoubtedly cost the village, the taxpayers and our schools millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and opportunity. Plus, every dollar lost from the tax-exempt status of the Sokols’ properties will have to be recaptured through higher taxes for the rest of us, despite the fact that his plans do not conform to the village’s comprehensive plan.
Why should Brookfield’s taxpayers and business owners subsidize Rev. Sokol’s church through higher taxes and lost revenue? How does that benefit those of us that aren’t members of his church?
Mark McCann is a Brookfield resident.