Parking in Brookfield’s downtown business district – on either side of the tracks along Grand Boulevard, Prairie Avenue, Brookfield Avenue and Burlington Avenue – is a finite commodity.
There’s a little more if you factor in commuter rail parking, which comes available in the evening, but it can be a bit of a walk. On busy weekend nights, spaces are pretty well filled up along Grand Boulevard and Burlington Avenue.
Some might argue that Brookfield needs more parking for customers of the bars, restaurants and retail businesses in the downtown district, and the zoning code right now would appear to agree.
Most recently amended in 2017, the code requires businesses in the Station Area districts, which includes the downtown, to provide a specific minimum number of onsite – that is, off-street – parking spaces for both customers and employees, depending on the use.
But last week Community Development Director Emily Egan and Village Manager Tim Wiberg asked elected officials to have the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission revisit the code and to consider eliminating onsite parking requirements.
In the first place, most storefronts in the downtown – set on odd-shaped parcels along Grand Boulevard, which crosses diagonally through the village’s street grid – don’t have any capacity for onsite parking.
“Frequently if it’s a vacancy for over six months it’s something that would require a variation for parking,” Egan said. “Even though we do have a lot of on-street parking in the downtown and we have modified the code to be a little more flexible, there are several vacancies for businesses that would be required to go through that additional step of a variation before they would be able to move in.”
Making a new business owner go through a zoning variation process seemed pointless, Wiberg said, since the village wants to encourage businesses to locate downtown and elected officials happily chuck the requirement to make that happen.
“We know if we want a restaurant or bar, they’re going to be granted a variation, because there’s nowhere in the downtown for them to put off-street parking,” Wiberg said. “It seems kind of silly to make them go through the plan commission variation process for something you know they’re going to get anyway.”
Brookfield trustees last week directed the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission to consider changing the zoning code to eliminate minimum parking requirements for businesses, calling them an unnecessary hurdle for new businesses that may want to locate there.
The commission will consider recommending an amendment to the code at a public hearing scheduled for Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.
“I’m in complete agreement,” said Trustee Brian Conroy, who serves as the village board’s liaison to the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce. “I think we need to be as business-friendly as possible and remove as many barriers to entry that we can.”
Egan confirmed that eliminating onsite parking requirements was recommended only for commercial tenants of downtown buildings. The village does not plan to eliminate onsite parking requirements for residential units located in downtown buildings.
Developers wishing to build mixed-use structures in the downtown must meet onsite parking requirements for the residential component of those developments.