Four Brookfield homeowners received an early Christmas present courtesy of the Brookfield Village Board earlier this month, and it would have made Lucy Van Pelt green with envy, because it what was she always wanted – real estate.
Village trustees voted unanimously at their Dec. 12 meeting to vacate an unimproved 33-foot strip of public right-of-way – essentially what would have been 29th Street – between Prairie and Sunnyside avenues.
The village is deeding the land to the single-family properties immediately to the south, formalizing what over many years had become unofficial annexation by private property owners of the property. Three of the four homes adjacent to the public land already have driveways constructed on them.
The land just north of that village right-of-way is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Brookfield officials compressed the timeline for the property vacation so that it could be approved by the end of 2022. The village provided legal notice of a Dec. 12 public hearing in the Landmark on Nov. 23. Village board members conducted the hearing, which generated no public comment, during the same meeting trustees voted to vacate the land.
The timing will allow the village to vacate the property and the homeowners to acquire it as tax year 2022 ends. The land for the first time ever will go onto the property tax rolls beginning when 2023 starts, or very nearly after that.
According to Brookfield Finance Director Doug Cooper, those property owners will see their tax bills rise about 9% to account for the additional land. While gaining that property does come at a perpetual tax cost, the land itself cost nothing to acquire and it eliminates the possibility of the village ordering any existing improvements – at least one driveway dates to the early 1960s — to be removed.
“In general, those properties would be expected to increase in value due to the new size,” said Brookfield Village Planner Kate Portillo. The fact that all four properties have frontage on a forest preserve arguably helps these property values for future transactions. There’s assurance now that there will be no encroachments on that side of the private properties.”
The village will maintain a permanent easement on the land, according to Portillo, because there are some utilities that run under a portion of it.
The four homes south of the village right-of-way until recently had been owned by the same families for many years and Brookfield had never formulated any plans to improve the land, so its use was never really addressed. It’s unclear exactly when the driveways were built or if the village ever gave any formal OK for them. There are no property records formalizing any such agreements, Portillo said.
Officials got the ball rolling on the process of vacating the property, when one of the four homeowners, who purchased a home in late 2020, approached the village about building a new garage on the land, where a driveway already existed.
“It was from that communication with the village that we started to work through all of the information,” Portillo said.
More recently, the home at 2901 Sunnyside Ave. went on the market – according to information online last week, the property was under contract – and some concern had been expressed about the future use of the driveway there, which sits on the unimproved right-of-way.
There still remain a couple of other oddball, rarely used segments of public right-of-way in Brookfield, though there’s been no call to vacate them, at least for now.
One of them is nearby – the unimproved section of Forestview Avenue between 26th Place and 26th Street and an unimproved section of 26th Street between Park Avenue and the Forestview right-of-way.
A sidewalk exists in those rights-of-way, which run behind four private properties in that area. Three homes in that area can only be accessed via an east/west alley east of Park Avenue between 26th Street and 26th Place.
The other unimproved section of a public street is what would be Sunnyside Avenue between Plainfield Road and 47th Street. In 2003, village officials caught some flak from nearby property owners when it used that stretch of right-of-way as an open storage area for the fall leaf pickup program.