Somehow, Paulette Delcourt didn’t get some important information about the home she bought in late 2019 at 3710 Grand Blvd. in downtown Brookfield.
All the warning signs were there: The cozy, 90-year-old 1.5-story frame bungalow was located on a block zoned commercial – the appraiser had flagged it for that reason – and Delcourt had heard something about a possible development next door, but apparently was told it had fallen through.
“I had no clue,” Delcourt said. “I couldn’t imagine someone actually putting something like this in this spot.”
Delcourt said she did some online research and couldn’t find any reason to believe there would be any significant development. And she decided to take the plunge.
About eight or nine months later, well into the pandemic year of 2020, Delcourt noticed that trees on property to the north were coming down.
She went outside to find out what was happening and ran into her neighbor, Michael Gatto, the developer who had purchased the property after winning Brookfield Village Board approval in December 2018 – 11 months before Delcourt bought her home — to build a three-story apartment building with a ground-floor commercial storefront at 3704-08 Grand Blvd.
Construction had been delayed due to some building design changes and the pandemic, and in late 2020 Gatto broke ground. But it’s been only recently, with exterior walls going up within touching distance – not to mention that daily noise and dust from living next to a construction zone — that Delcourt has experienced the extent of the impact.
The worst aspect, quite possibly, is that because of the unusual lot shapes, the apartment building wraps around the rear of her property. Two floors of apartments frame two sides of her backyard, their large window openings overlooking it completely.
“Is it fair for them to put giant windows looking at my property?” she asked. “Is it legal? Probably. Is it fair? Probably not.”
In the past week or so, unable to take it any longer, Delcourt went to social media – the Brookfield Connections forum on Facebook, specifically – to illustrate conditions using photos and video and to demand that something be done.
“I was making noise for months, and I finally got fed up,” Delcourt said.
Late last week, Delcourt started an online petition to “immediately stop work” at the development next door, “so that I can secure my safety and the integrity of my property.” As of May 17, the petition had garnered more than 1,300 signatures.
Among the complaints Delcourt enumerates in the petition is that Gatto had excavated over the property line, saw-cutting a portion of her gangway sidewalk, in order to pour the concrete foundation. Looking at the surveyors’ marks on the Grand Boulevard sidewalk in front of both properties, the southern edge of the apartment building’s foundation trench does appear to be several inches over the property line.
“This is a taking of my land witnessed by village officials who now claim this is a ‘civil dispute,’” the petition states.
Gatto did not respond to text messages from the Landmark seeking comment on the allegation or whether he had reached out to Delcourt.
Also not responding to inquiries made by the Landmark were the property’s listing agent or the realtor who served as Delcourt’s agent for the purchase.
As for the village of Brookfield, officials say they have reached out to Delcourt and tentatively had a meeting with her scheduled last week at the village hall. Delcourt confirmed that she had canceled that meeting.
One thing the village appears sure of is that if there’s blame to be had, it’s not theirs.
“I think we followed the proper procedures,” said Village President Michael Garvey, who as a trustee in 2018 cast one of the votes approving the apartment building. “There might have been an issue with the realtor or someone else, but there’s no secret of our intention to develop our transit corridor, and I think this was publicized pretty well in general.”
Gatto’s development at 3704-08 Grand Blvd. was the subject of at least three public meetings in the fall of 2018 and was notable as the first new mixed-use development in downtown Brookfield in decades.
The building and its smooth movement through the village’s approval process was made possible by a number of initiatives completed in the past five years, including a comprehensive rewrite of zoning code in 2017 to include specific guidelines for high-density development along the Brookfield rail corridor.
Both the apartment building property and Delcourt’s home are zoned SA4a, which allows development of between two to six stories with ground-floor commercial uses. The village’s comprehensive plan, adopted in 2018, reaffirms the policy of preferring high-density residential and mixed-use development in the station area districts.
Gatto’s interest in Brookfield – he has either completed or has in progress four different multifamily residential developments in the downtown – is due in part to the village’s openness to such projects.
The unfortunate reality for Delcourt is not just that there’s an apartment building being constructed within inches of her home, but that others like it are likely to follow in the future.
Another three-story mixed-use building is being planned farther south at 3736-38 Grand Blvd., and other properties on the block have recently changed hands, including an 1890s-era home at 3714 Grand Blvd., immediately south of Delcourt’s property.
That property, which has been divided into two apartments, sold last week. Asked if she knew who the buyer was, Delcourt told the Landmark the new owner was “a builder.”
“He’s going to leave it, he’s going to rent it out,” Delcourt said of the new owner.
Of course, she’s heard that one before.