The Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission told a developer and his team on May 20 to revise their plans for an apartment building at 8845 Burlington Ave., saying the proposed 14-unit building didn’t meet design standards for the zoning district.
The nearly two-hour discussion of the transit-oriented development featured critical comments from residents as well, many of whom earlier voiced displeasure about a mixed-use development under construction at 3704 Grand Blvd., a controversy that has taken on a life of its own on social media.
Outrage over the Grand Boulevard development provided a backdrop for the discussion of the Burlington Avenue proposal. And while it’s difficult to assess how much that anger played into the consideration of the commission, the initial proposal for an apartment building in a zoning district that specifically calls for townhomes wasn’t a slam dunk.
“I don’t agree that the facades comply with the Station Area design guidelines,” said Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Charles Grund, referring to the zoning code adopted in 2017 to promote certain kinds of development near the village’s three Metra stations.
The proposed development would be located directly across the street from the Prairie Avenue Metra station. However, the property is located in what is known as the SA6 district, which is defined in the code as “a low scale residential district serving as a transition between other station area (SA) districts and single-family residential neighborhoods.”
Building types allowed in the district include rowhouses, townhouses and single-family homes. Just across Forest Avenue from 8845 Burlington Ave., to the west, is a different zoning district, SA4b, which does allow more density and general apartment buildings.
The developer presented a plan for an apartment building in the SA6 district that he termed a “hybrid.” While an apartment building in practice, its design attempts to give the appearance of individual rowhomes through vertical massing. Three of the four ground-floor units also have private entrances, enhancing that illusion.
Grund told the developer, Jason Huang; his land use planner, Mike Mallon; and his architect, Mario Cruz, that the attempt to mask an apartment building by trying to mimic rowhouses, wasn’t successful.
“It’s very clear in the design guidelines what can be done, what should be done,” Grund said. “I do understand that you’re trying to make this look like a rowhouse, which I don’t disagree with, but you still have to follow the design guidelines.”
That said, Grund and other commissioners agreed that the proposed development was in keeping with the goals of the Station Area code, which specifically sought these types of developments to revitalize Brookfield’s downtown, in particular.
“When the Station Area code was developed, this is one of the prime reasons it was developed, for transit oriented design,” Grund said.
Mallon argued that the zoning variance sought for the building type in the SA6 district was appropriate because it met the goals set out in Brookfield’s comprehensive plan and the Station Area zoning code.
“It is my professional opinion that as an urban planner as well as a real estate consultant, that the [development] does meet your standards for variations as set forth in the village of Brookfield’s zoning ordinance,” Mallon said.
Mallon said the resistance to this development as well as the one on Grand Boulevard was understandable, because of Brookfield’s past “sleepy” reputation when it came to real estate redevelopment.
“Change is difficult. I fully understand that,” Mallon said. “You’re going through some growing pains right now.”
Mallon said Huang, who already owns the property at 8845 Burlington Ave., has other, more ambitious development plans in the pipeline for Brookfield.
“This is not going to be his only opportunity,” Mallon said. “He’s currently working right now with your staff on another development in another part of the town that’s going to be involving more units.
“You will be seeing more developments from other developers moving forward.”
Eight residents provided public comment, with most of the criticism landing on the density of the project so close to a single-family district and what they believed was a lack of parking.
Linda Andrys, a resident of the village since 1949 and a resident of the 3800 block of Forest Avenue, said her opposition to the proposal was “common sense.”
“It’s a beautiful building, but it’s over-dense for the area it’s on,” Andrys said.
Karla Vargas, who lives in a single-family home a couple of doors east of the proposed development, said she was “beside herself” over the scale of the building.
“The idea of putting up 14 units in this block, I’m just awed,” Vargas said. “I moved into Brookfield for this family-oriented setting.”
According to Huang, the proposed design called for three one-bedroom, five two-bedroom and six three-bedroom apartments. The development shows 11 onsite parking spaces and uses a provision in the Station Area code to obtain credit for the 6.5 spaces the development lacks by providing covered parking for 39 bicycles.
As a result, the development as proposed does not need a variance for parking, but Grund noted that the village might want to amend the code, to limit such parking credits. He also said he wanted assurance that the development could actually accommodate that much covered bike parking.
If the developer is able to revise his plans in the next few weeks, the Planning and Zoning Commission could continue its discussion of the proposal and potentially render a recommendation at its next meeting on June 17 at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.
“I think the [developer] is close but I think we need some tweaks,” Grund said. “I think it’s clear what we’re asking for, it’s clear what the public comment is asking for, so I behoove you to sharpen the pencil a little bit and work with staff and see what you can do.”