The owner of Cordial Inn, 9207 31st St. in Brookfield, has proposed buying a section of the public alley west of his tavern to connect it to the parking lot he also owns on the other side of the alley.
Frank Volpe appeared before the Brookfield Village Board on Oct. 26 to pitch a plan to acquire a little more than 2,000 square feet of land in a roughly 16.5-by-126-foot strip from the 31st Street sidewalk to the Cordial Inn’s rear property line.
Access to the alley is already limited by a set of concrete barriers erected several years ago to prevent cut-through traffic from speeding south down the alley from 31st Street. In recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cordial Inn has pitched a tent in the alley north of the barrier for an outdoor dining location.
Volpe told village trustees that he’d like to erect a more permanent structure that might possibly wrap around the front of the business as an outdoor serving area. He said he’d also like to expand the tavern’s small area set aside for video gambling machines, which have been especially popular at Cordial Inn since they were introduced in 2012.
“One of things I did think about is the gaming area is kind of small. We were thinking about putting a sixth game in there, so I think if we did move that wall it might help us a little bit as far as room goes,” Volpe said. “That would be a long-term plan.”
Volpe’s family has owned the Cordial Inn since 1965 and he said he has no plans to sell the business. Acquiring the alley would also increase parking for the business, which recently shrank when a neighboring property owner reclaimed land used in the past for parking.
Although trustees were somewhat split over supporting an outright sale of the alley to Cordial Inn, they nevertheless directed Community Development Director Michael Schwarz to get an appraisal for the land.
According to Schwarz, it could take from three to six weeks to obtain the appraisal and it would cost between $600 and $1,000, which Schwarz said typically is paid for by the party proposing to purchase the land.
Schwarz said that from a staff perspective, it’s unlikely the village Community and Economic Development Department would support selling a public alley, since land uses can change over time and the alley might be used for ingress/egress in the future.
The land is zoned for commercial development, so there is no need to rezone the property, but a consolidated lot might also result in a future development officials hadn’t anticipated but could be built by right.
Trustee Michael Garvey suggested the village could enter into a long-term lease with Cordial Inn for the use of the alley, giving Volpe room to expand while he still owns the bar while giving the village some protection over future land use.
“Our job is to look out for the public property that we own and make sure we do the right thing with it,” Garvey said. “If we give you a long-term lease that allows you to [expand outdoor dining], I don’t see how you’re harmed in any way.”
President Kit Ketchmark also questioned if it was in the public interest to sell the land.
“The village and its residents own this property,” Ketchmark said. “Is it to the best interest of the residents to provide all this property? Wouldn’t we want to know what we get out of that?”
Trustees Brian Conroy and Edward Cote argued in favor of selling the land, saying it made for a more viable site.
“I think it becomes a much more attractive venue when you have a permanent outdoor beer garden, and I think you’d be more apt to enhance the overall value of the area and that piece of property,” Conroy said. “Just to leave this concrete is a waste of opportunity.”
Whether the village ends up selling or leasing the property, Volpe would still be on the hook for property taxes assessed against the land since it would be used for a new, commercial purpose.
For his part, Volpe, said he’d prefer to buy the land over leasing it.
“If I ever did try to sell it, that would cause problem, because then whoever’s going to buy it would have to renegotiate the lease,” Volpe said.