The Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 28 took its third crack at recommending changes to what kinds of commercial uses should be allowed in the Eight Corners business district, choosing to eliminate many that could both draw people to the area and produce sales tax revenue.

Commissioners voted 5 to 2 to recommend amending the use table for the district to prohibit daycare businesses, cultural exhibits, parks/recreation facilities, religious assembly, general indoor and outdoor assembly/entertainment, fraternal organizations, artist studios or art instruction, community gardens and auto service/body shops.

The changes would limit such businesses as movie theaters, live theater, billiards halls and bowling alleys and music concerts.

Voting against the recommended changes were commissioners Jennifer Hendricks and P. Christopher Straka, who found the prohibitions far too broad.

“When we take away these potential uses – assembly, entertainment – that bring people together, that bring people to this district on a regular basis, even, I think taking out those uses is shooting ourselves in the foot,” Hendricks said.

But with a moratorium on special use applications in the Eight Corners district set to expire in two months, the majority of commissioners – Chairman Charles Grund, Patrick Benjamin, Karen Miller, Todd Svoboda and Mark Weber — and village staff urged the changes to head off any potential legal challenges.

Permitted uses would include a range of service businesses, from building service and consumer maintenance and repair services to personal services (like nail and hair salons), research services and business support services.

The amended code also recommends broadcast or recording services as special uses and allows the full range of eating and drinking establishments; medical, professional and business offices; and retail businesses.

The commission also introduced a permitted new use into the recommended code to allow amusement arcades, such as the ones that exist presently on Ogden Avenue.

Hovering in the background of the vote was the desire by village officials to prohibit a church from being applied for and possibly approved as a special use in the district. Religious assembly presently is permitted as a special use at Eight Corners, and the village board set a precedent last year when they allowed Compassion United Methodist Church religious assembly one morning a week at Compassion Factory Art Gallery and Studio, 9210 Broadway Ave.

In voting to recommend prohibiting such a broad array of uses, particularly ones related to public assembly, commissioners and village staff clearly had that in mind.

In response to Hendricks’ concerns, Commissioner Patrick Benjamin said he largely agreed with her, but that village needed to protect itself from a legal challenge at this time.

“I also understand the legal aspects of what counsel was trying to do here,” Benjamin said. “You have to treat uses similarly … for the village to be in the best possible position to defend itself in case of a challenge.

Benjamin as well as the village’s attorney, Adam Durkin, and the village’s community and economic development director, Nicholas Greifer, said it’s likely the commission and village board would revisit uses in the future as the need arose.

“What I could see happening in the future is the village pulling out, for example, the bowling alley from that definition and make a standalone definition just like we did with video arcade games,” Durkin said.

Greifer suggested village planning staff might also want to examine use table definitions in other zoning districts as well.

“If we have an opportunity down the road, we could look not only at [Eight Corners] but the other districts to see if we could fine tune the language with respect to definition of uses,” Greifer said.

The Rev. Karl Sokol, who was at the Feb. 28 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting but did not speak during the public hearing, revealed publicly in January that he was drawing up plans for a mixed-use structure for the 3400 block of Grand Boulevard that would include commercial spaces, condominiums and an arts center that would include an auditorium that would be used for both live theater and as his church.

After the commission’s vote to prohibit uses such as live theater and religious assembly, Sokol criticized the decision.

“It’s hard for me to see it as anything other than dishonest, disingenuous to hear people tripping over themselves to come up with alternative language just to say we’re going to extraordinary legal, financial – we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot – just to stop the United Methodists from worshipping at Eight Corners,” Sokol said. 

Sokol said his architect, Paul Straka, was working to finish detailed plans for his mixed-use proposal and that he hoped to have them in hand by this week so they could be submitted to the village.

“We’ll still submit,” Sokol said.

Paul Straka is the father of Planning and Zoning Commissioner P. Christopher Straka, who voted against recommending the sweeping use changes at Eight Corners.

The Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation will now go to the Brookfield Village Board for a final vote later this month.

This story has been changed to identify Adam Durkin as the village’s attorney.

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