New plan for 8 Corners church revealed

Would be part of commercial/residential/fine arts complex

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By Bob Uphues

Editor

The Rev. Karl Sokol, pastor of Compassion United Methodist Church and owner of Compassion Factory Art Gallery and Studio, revealed on Jan. 14 that he had submitted preliminary plans several months ago to the village for a mixed-use development at Eight Corners that includes a church.

The plan was not formally submitted for review, but was intended to give officials an idea of how much the scope and design of the planned development had changed over time and convince them it met the village's planning goals for the area.

"The idea really was to look at how the needs of the community could be most well met," said Sokol in an interview following his revelations at the end of the Brookfield Village Board's committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 14.

The development would occupy an irregularly wedge-shaped parcel of land owned by Sokol's mother, Linda Sokol Francis, and the Methodist Church along the 3400 block of Grand Boulevard.

According to Sokol, the development would include four ground-floor commercial spaces along the Grand Boulevard side of the structure. Those would be topped by one or two more stories of condominiums, perhaps four or eight units in all.

Along the Washington Avenue frontage, the plan is to build a fine arts center that would include a theater space that would be used on Sundays as Compassion United Methodist Church and would be available for community use at other times. The theater perhaps could seat as many as 150 people, Sokol said.

"This would be a church, yes," Sokol said. "On every Sunday morning we would be talking about Jesus, but the rest of the week it would be available for the community.  The idea is for it to be a professional, flexible theater."

The fine arts center would also include art gallery space and smaller rooms for art-related activities. It's unclear, if this is built, what would become of Compassion Factory Art Gallery and Studio, which is directly across Washington Avenue from the proposed site.

"It's too early to say that, but I'd love to see that spin off as its own 501c3 gallery or sell it as a proper art gallery to somebody else if it came down to that," Sokol said.

Sokol perhaps felt compelled to reveal the revised plans for the development, which has come a long way from its original concept.

Last year after granting Compassion Factory Gallery a special use permit to conduct religious services on Sundays, the village board imposed a six-month moratorium, which has now been extended into February, on granting any other special use permits in the Eight Corners business district.

Meanwhile, the village's Planning and Zoning Commission was tasked to look at amending allowed uses in the Eight Corners district in the zoning code. In December, the commission recommended outlawing indoor and outdoor assembly, including religious assembly in the district.

The village board discussed those recommendations on Jan. 14 and a vote on the recommendation could come on Feb. 11, around the time the moratorium is slated to end. Sokol argued that the revised plans he submitted last year ticked all of the boxes the village is seeking for developments at Eight Corners and that outlawing all forms of assembly for the singular purpose of preventing the Methodist Church a worship spot there was "throwing the baby out with the bath water."

"On a general principle, it's a really bad idea to make extensive legislation that would restrict growth in order to address a specific issue," Sokol told trustees during the public comment portion of the Jan. 14 committee of the whole meeting. "It's just bad governance."

Sokol argued that the specific issue in this case – a church/fine arts center – was "a good."

"I don't know why we would be investing against it," Sokol said.

The new plan is completely different from the original plan, unveiled by Linda Sokol Francis in 2010 and denied by the village board that same year. The original essentially was a large open gathering space/gymnasium with a small commercial component at the point of the wedge, right at Eight Corners.

With the opening and expansion of The Max in McCook there's less need for indoor recreation spaces and Linda Sokol Francis, with her $1 million donation, has chosen to concentrate on helping make the Brookfield Public Library a vibrant community gathering place.

So the plan has changed to address both the village's planning goals and further the success of a fine arts venture at Eight Corners, said Sokol.

"We feel like we really came to more than a reasonable compromise for what that space can look like," Sokol told the Landmark. "And I can't imagine what they're hoping to build there that would be better or more beneficial to the community."

Contact:
Email: buphues@wjinc.com Twitter: @RBLandmark

Reader Comments

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Margaret Mary  

Posted: January 19th, 2019 8:09 PM

It is not so much that no one wants to develope new business. I see it that for some reason the person purchasing the land knows that either its vacant or there are back taxes or a buy out and they seem to be able to purchase before it gets posted. Hmmmm! Sounds kind of fishy to me..

Ken Knasiak  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 7:09 AM

"If you build it he will come," and by 'he' I mean consumers, consumers of art and food and drink and beads and guitars (if the store was ever open). And even God on Sundays, oh my. I can personally attest that since the Compassion Factory has opened I have spent more time at the west end of Eight Corners than the previous 10 tens years combined. I'm also in such a position that I can purchase art created by local artists there, all while paying sales tax on those purchases. Something I would never have been able to do in town before. This plan seems to me to meet all the present conditions of the 2020 Plan. The Z&P Board may be reaching for a bridge too far in attempting to limit public assembly in the area. A restriction which on the face of it, is written explicitly to discriminate against a religious organization. I for one don't feel I should have to pay the legal fees for the village to defend this folly of hubris on the part of the Z&P board.

Brian Raymond from lagrange park  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 10:35 PM

There are 2 churches within a block of 8 corners- do the business owners see better business on days there are services?

Elmer Perkins  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 3:47 PM

All businesses benefit when other properties are developed and attract people to the area. I think church going people might be attracted to the bead business, as well as other existing stores. Brookfield has a glut of under utilized commercial property, they can't afford to turn away people who are willing to invest. Even if the church itself does not pay taxes, all the people who go there do, and they may very well patronize the nearby businesses. I'm afraid though that the Atwoods' bitter opinions may keep customers away from theirs.

Erin O'Brien from Riverside  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 11:53 AM

How would this benefit Brookfield when religious institutions are tax-exempt?

Laura Atwood from Brookfield   

Posted: January 16th, 2019 5:55 AM

I am the owner of Laura Atwood Studio Beads & Trading co. And am against this. I have worked for 3 years building my store and am finally open on Sundays. We are doing well and I just hired a local Resident. There is a brand newly renovated salon about to open next store to me and the game room just opened. A lot is going on on broadway. I urge you please let the comprehensive plan start this spring and you will see a nice little downtown area emerge. Brookfield is about to bloom naturally. The Sokols have one goal in mind as you can see. It's not the best interest of the community. They are just putting there interest in a nice wrapper waiting for you to open and eat it. I urge the board "Do not do this". I am against this. Its not fair to the rest of us who have invested in this town because of your comprehensive plan which you said is starting this spring.

Justin Atwood  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 12:00 AM

Our commercial district is the lifeblood of our community and it involves people of all races, and many RELIGIONS. This one shouldn't be able to play games and lie to get what they want. We have a real opportunity to grow our business district into something that really helps everyone when we stay religiously neutral within it.

Justin Atwood  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 11:39 PM

Bad governance? Give me a break, there has been misdirection and lies from the beginning. The art gallery has been a front for their church and their personal gatherings from the start and going forward. I've watched it happen day by day. THIS CHURCH FEEDS YOU LIES! Don't give them more power and more money to support his mothers political control and personal agenda. Our commercial district need commercial enterprise that wants to grow a real sense of greater community.

Rachel Moore Rivera from Brookfield   

Posted: January 15th, 2019 10:09 PM

Come on Brookfield, let people assemble!

Kathy Taylor Wyant  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 8:20 PM

I liked the original idea, since there are too many kids getting into mischief because they're bored. The village is always looking for more tax revenue, despite TIFs that minimize that revenue, so this new proposal sounds like a decent compromise. These horrible wedge-shaped properties are so hard to get and keep businesses. Seriously, anything is an improvement. Besides, we've already lost a few churches in recent years (Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, at least).

Diana Drew from Brookfield  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 7:55 PM

Sounds like a great plan, it's not like anyone else wants to develop anything there that would add curb appeal or be community friendly. What's wrong with art and religion????

Karen Klimasz Boylan  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 5:47 PM

So the Zoning Commission is recommending outlawing the U.S Constitution.? How can they outlaw Assembly in the 8 corners? Assemble is a group of people the Art Gallery could not hold events, Ms. Clara could not have classes, people could not gather at the restaruant, is Gross School considered in the 8 Corners if it is the school would have to be shut down. "Meanwhile, the village's Planning and Zoning Commission was tasked to look at amending allowed uses in the Eight Corners district in the zoning code. In December, the commission recommended outlawing indoor and outdoor assembly,"

Jennifer Harris  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 5:02 PM

We don't need another church!!!!!

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