Parishioners at St. Nikola Serbian Orthodox Church in Brookfield are one step closer to being able to worship in a new, custom-built church after the members of the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously on April 22 to recommend granting a special use permit and approving consolidating three parcels on land the parish owns at 4301 Prairie Ave., 4309 Prairie Ave. and 4300 Forest Ave.
The commission’s decision is advisory and the Brookfield Village Board will have final say over granting the requests, but approval appears likely since the site already houses the parish church and the construction of a new building requires no zoning variations.
St. Nikola Church first approached the village about building a new church on part of the 40,000-square-foot property early in 2020 but withdrew that application — which asked for variances for height, setbacks and lot coverage — after planning and zoning commissioners indicated they wouldn’t recommend approval and suggested the parish’s architect revise the plan.
“We realized we were able to make some modifications, and in doing so we did come up with what we thought was an even stronger design for the church,” architect Petko Petrovich of Accolade Design Inc. told commissioners at the April 22 public hearing at the Brookfield Village Hall.
The footprint of the proposed new church, at 4,705 square feet, is actually about 500 square feet larger than the one proposed in 2020. However, when the church officially combines all three parcels, the parish will easily meet lot coverage requirements even with a new 98-seat church, the existing church/hall building and rectory all standing on the property.
“We think of ourselves as a thoughtful group, and we did give you some things to think about last time here,” said Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Charles Grund, who is an architect. “And, it’s appreciated that you’ve taken that into strong consideration and slightly changed the design. I personally think it is better.”
Petrovich has also scaled back the height of the central bell tower, topping the colonnade that forms the west façade of the church, from 48 feet to 33 feet, 6 inches. The dome over the church sanctuary also has been lowered from 41 feet to 35 feet in order to comply with height restrictions in the residential zoning district.
Construction of the new church, which will be located on the southeast corner of the property closer to Forest Avenue, also won’t create any new setback non-conformities, said Brookfield Community Development Director Michael Schwarz.
St. Nikola Church also has an onsite, 28-space parking lot, which is more than enough to accommodate village requirements for churches. The parish plans to convert the existing worship space into Sunday school classrooms and intends on using the adjacent parish hall for Serbian dance classes on Friday evenings.
If in the future church membership and programs require more parking, Petrovich said the parish is exploring some sort of parking sharing agreement with Lincoln School, which is located across Forest Avenue from the site of the new church.