A real estate development team looking to construct a three-story, 12-unit condominium building at 8845 Burlington Ave. was asked to sharpen their pencils last week, as the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission deferred making a recommendation during a preliminary public hearing last Thursday.
Commissioners were not thrilled with the design of the building for which the developers are seeking zoning relief through Brookfield’s planned unit development process.
Preliminary drawings for The Canopy, as the development is called, show a rather spartan block of flats that fills the entire lot at the southeast corner of Burlington and Forest avenues, except for a proposed 3-foot set back on the east and west sides of the condo building. An enclosed parking structure at the rear of the building has no setback on any side.
Commissioners struggled to reconcile the design in front of them with standards they must consider when weighing planned development applications. One of those standards states that the development must meet “high standards in design, site planning and construction.”
“As much as I’d like to see the current building removed from that site, I am disappointed in the design of this proposal,” said Commissioner Karen Miller.
Commissioner Patrick Benjamin compared the condo building’s design to the apartment block at 3708 Grand Blvd., a three-story black box that has been subject to much criticism.
“To give this our full support, we’d like to see a little more details,” Benjamin said. “There’s a number of open questions regarding the landscaping, design, etc., so I’d be OK with continuing the case.”
The planned development process allows a municipality flexibility in granting zoning relief in exchange for a final product that also provides a public benefit. Although the building property on the site is poor and a new multifamily building would be an improvement, even the building’s architect, Ron Vari, admitted at the public hearing that making the development profitable impacted its design.
“We stood with a basic construction – how should I put this – a cost-friendly design and layout of the building,” Vari said. “Could it have been taken to another level? Sure, of course, anything can be. But we wanted to make sure that it was affordable for [the developers].”
In suggesting the commission defer a decision for another month, Chairman Charles Grund, who is an architect, said that while the body was not a design review commission, it did have more latitude in insisting on design improvements through the planned development process.
Pointing to the need for a planned development to include high standards of construction and site planning, Grund said, “You’re getting there. … There’s lots to do here, yet.”
A handful of neighborhood residents expressed reservations over the parking and storm water management, although the development’s proposed onsite parking appears to meet the code, and storm water management solutions are required to meet the village’s code.
The neighbor immediately to the east of the proposed development worried about the minimal setback from his property line.
Steven Sabourin, a Brookfield resident who is an urban planner, panned the design, saying it doesn’t qualify for a recommendation using the village’s planned development process.
“A planned development is a development technique intended to encourage imaginative design and coordinated land uses,” Sabourin stated in a written comment to the commission. “There is nothing imaginative about the design of this project, which is a square block of a building that occupies practically the entire lot.”
Partner Peter Haleas of Three Green Vegetables LLC argued that the existing building at 8845 Burlington Ave. was an eyesore and that his proposed condominiums would be a vast improvement. He also said the proposed building was an improvement over the development the commission recommended and village board approved in 2021, but which was never constructed.
That wasn’t enough to convince commissioners, however.
“I think they’ve done some good things and have a good start here,” Grund said. “I think with a little refinement here and there, and some details that we’re asking for, I think it’s probably in your best interest to come back and see us in a month.”
The Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28.