The Brookfield Public Library’s Board of Trustees cleared the penultimate hurdle in their quest to build a new library at 3541 Park Ave. last week, with members of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission voting 5-0 to recommend approval of the final planned unit development application for the complex.

The proposed two-story 21,000-square-foot library would replace the library’s current home at 3609 Grand Blvd., which would be demolished and converted into a 23-space parking lot with ample green space along Lincoln Avenue.

“We have been involved in this process for years now, not only with this library building, but with the previous one,” said library board President Dianne Duner prior to the Planning and Zoning Commission’s vote on Aug. 22. “Everything we have done we have done with care and concern for everyone in this community, and we’ve done it with integrity. It’s time for us to start building this library.

“We’re ready, we’d like to begin.”

Duner’s comments were filtered through a lengthy complaint lodged by a resident of the 3500 block of Park Avenue, Mark McCann, who reiterated criticism of a traffic study done for the project.

McCann said the study, which was conducted during bitterly cold weather at the end of January, should be tossed out and another one commissioned, because it didn’t follow industry best practices against performing traffic counts in extreme weather.

However, planning commissioners were satisfied by statements from Tammi Czewski, senior traffic engineer at Traffic Analysis and Design Inc. (TADI), which conducted the study as well as a prior study for an earlier library design in October 2012.

Czewski, who said she also observed traffic in the area around the library earlier on Aug. 22, said traffic counts were similar on all three occasions and that even taking into account pedestrian and bicycle traffic and assuming double the amount of vehicle traffic, the new library would not dramatically increase traffic in the area.

“I doubled the traffic volumes, ran the analysis and it still operates in what we would consider acceptable,” Czewski said.

McCann promised that when the Brookfield Village Board got its first look at the final planned development application at its Sept. 9 meeting, he would present a petition from residents of the block opposing approval.

The village board will only discuss the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation at the Sept. 9 meeting. No vote will be taken.

Library Trustee Adam Burghgraef sought to reassure the new library’s neighbors that the library remained open to talking with neighbors about any concerns they had in the future.

“This building has been the result of multiple comments from [the village] and residents, dating back from the referendum,” said Burghgraef. “Our ears were open then and our ears will continue to be open as we move forward.”

The village board, if it agrees with the findings of the Planning and Zoning Commission, could vote to approve the final plan as soon as Sept. 23, which would keep the library on track for construction to start in spring 2020.

Library trustees have been working toward the construction of a new library for more than a decade. After a failed bid in 2007 to acquire property for a new facility in the Hollywood section of Brookfield, the library board shifted direction, purchasing the former Brookfield United Methodist Church at 3541 Park Ave. in 2012. 

The library board won village approval of a new 32,000-square-foot facility at the former church site in 2016, and it placed a construction bond referendum on the ballot that fall.

The referendum failed and library officials were forced to change direction again. Eventually, they settled on building a smaller facility with the ability for future expansion at the former church site.

The proposed library is expected to cost between $10.5 million and $10.8 million. The library has set aside about $6 million in a special reserve fund, and also created a foundation that has been engaged in a capital campaign, raising another $1.3 million in private donations.

The capital campaign figure includes a $1 million donation from Brookfield businesswoman Linda Sokol Francis, after whom the new library will be named. The library also has been assured it can borrow up to $3.5 million to help fund construction.