A LaGrange-based home builder who has already constructed and sold three houses without a hitch on Brookfield’s south end expressed surprise recently when the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denying a special use permit to move a curb cut for a driveway at 4302 Maple Ave., where he’s planning to build a new residence.
Stevan Vukanic, lead project manager for IMX Group LLC, called the commission’s decision “shocking” and hoped that the Brookfield Village Board might look more favorably on his request, which would place a driveway exiting onto Shields Avenue within about 40 feet of its intersection with Maple Avenue.
“That was not what we expected, but I’m optimistic of a potential overturn of this by the village board,” said Vukanic, whose father Mike Vukanic, an attorney, presented IMX Group’s case to the Planning and Zoning Commission at a Jan. 28 public hearing.
At the village board’s committee of the whole discussion of the matter on Feb. 8, it appeared as though he might be right.
Trustees did not push back very hard on Mike Vukanic’s arguments that the ordinance now in place should not be enforced for this project, because it was not in place when he first submitted plans last September.
He also wondered why the ordinance in place at the time, which prohibited new curb cuts outright, had not been enforced for three earlier projects the company built nearby, saying the failure to do so suggested the village wasn’t serious in enforcing it.
He also complained that the Planning and Zoning Commission didn’t give the company “a fair shake” by not allowing him to rebut concerns expressed by commissioners.
Statements by a couple of commissioners that curb cuts were not consistent with neighboring properties, he said, were simply false. Trustees will vote on whether or not to approve the curb cut at their Feb. 22 meeting. Because of the denial by the commission, it will take a two-thirds majority to overturn that recommendation.
“To me, when it comes to talking about character, the character is that curb cuts are the standard,” Mike Vukanic said. “Not to have a curb cut is, ironically, out of character.”
Stevan Vukanic said the company in the past couple of years has built three homes in Brookfield at 4612 Arthur Ave., 4614 Arthur Ave. and 4312 Arthur Ave. Like the one proposed for 4302 Maple Ave., those homes are all about 3,400 square feet and each sold for more than $575,000.
The company was able to add a new curb cut and extend an existing one without issue for the homes in the 4600 block of Arthur Avenue. However, since those homes were built, the Brookfield Village Board passed an ordinance requiring new curb cuts to obtain a special use permit.
And, as fate would have it, Vukanic’s project on Maple Avenue became the first instance where a developer had to apply for a special use permit for a residential curb cut.
“I understand they’re trying to preserve the integrity of Brookfield, but that really limits the type of house that could go there,” he said.
Stevan Vukanic said the company has already altered its site plan, which initially had the driveway exiting onto Maple Avenue, after Brookfield police expressed concerns about cars backing out onto the busy collector route.
The home at 4302 Maple Ave. would be the first corner lot IMX Group is developing in Brookfield, and re-orienting the home to face Shields Avenue, which is also a collector route allowed for a wider, grand façade. Vukanic’s description of the design resembled the most recent home developed by IMX Group, at 4312 Arthur Ave.
The corner lot at 4302 Maple Ave. was previously a bit overgrown and the small one-story frame bungalow set back quite a way from Maple Avenue was obscured from view by tall pine trees along the Maple and Shields frontages.
“We took over what was the ugliest property in Brookfield and we’re planning to put up one of the nicest houses,” Vukanic said.
Nice or not, planning and zoning commissioners were unanimous in their recommendation against allowing the existing curb cut on Shields Avenue, which once led to a small detached garage at the rear of the property, closer to Maple Avenue. In the first place, there’s an alley that can provide access to a rear garage.
But, the biggest concern was the proximity of the proposed driveway to the busy intersection.
“I think this is a dangerous proposition,” said Commissioner Jennifer Hendricks, who will become a village trustee this spring, one of three candidates running unopposed for that post.
Hendricks said the property is close to both Ehlert Park and Congress Park School and that she had first-hand experience of someone backing into her vehicle as it exited a driveway too close to an intersection elsewhere in Brookfield.
“I don’t think we need to provide any more situations for this to happen,” said Hendricks, who added she thought doing so could open the village to liability. “We could put Brookfield in a bad position if we allow this.”
Hendricks suggested that the village’s code should be amended to specify just how far curb cuts can be located from an intersection.
Commissioner Karen Miller’s objection to the new curb cut also extended to the development’s site plan, saying re-orienting the home to face Shields Avenue was not in character with the neighborhood.
Commission Chairman Charles Grund also was lukewarm on the re-orientation of the home, which resulted in a garage sidewall being the principal feature of the Maple Avenue facade of the home.
“I don’t want to forget about the character of Maple,” Grund said.