By Bob Uphues
The Brookfield Public Library's board of trustees cleared a significant hurdle Monday night in its bid to build a new library campus at the intersection of Grand Boulevard and Park Avenue, setting the stage for the library to draw up final plans for the property.
Without throwing their actual support behind the library's proposal, Brookfield's village trustees voted unanimously to approve the library board's preliminary planned development application for a new library campus. In addition, the village board approved the library's petition to give them up to seven years to make their plan a reality.
"We're not saying to put up a building," said Trustee Michael Towner, one of two trustees to speak about the proposal before the board voted to approve it. "We're saying you can do this planned development."
Trustee Kit Ketchmark stated that before any final plan would be approved by the village board, he'd like to see some changes to the plan as it stands now. In particular, Ketchmark said, he'd like to see changes to the north side of the proposed library, which looms over the residential property next door.
In addition, Ketchmark said he'd like to see more work done to improve traffic circulation within and around the library campus area. The library board changed its original plan by shrinking the parking lot and rerouting traffic around the parking lot to connect Lincoln Avenue with Grand Boulevard.
While the library's architect has argued that the new plan creates an extension of Oak Avenue around the parking lot, some have argued that the Oak Avenue extension is simply a wider path through the parking lot, since the extension would be flanked on both sides by parking.
Ketchmark said he'd also want more complete information on which government agency would be responsible for what at that site. The library has proposed that the village be responsible for maintaining the Oak Avenue extension and adjacent parking spots.
"Those issues would need to be worked out before the village board could give final [approval]," Ketchmark said. "It may be years and years down the road, if ever. And ultimately those are issues that may not be able to be resolved, but this does not give final approval."
Library bought church in Nov.
The ball is now back in the court of the Brookfield Public Library board, which will meet on Dec. 19 to plan its next move.
Library officials also revealed Monday night that the board took something of a gamble last month, quietly purchasing the former Brookfield United Methodist Church property on Nov. 13, according to information obtained from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
The library board reportedly was scheduled to close on the property on Oct. 31, but that was delayed as church officials gathered documents necessary for the closing. The library board reportedly asked the church to wait until the village board's vote on their preliminary plan on Dec. 10, but the church wouldn't budge.
After meeting in closed session for about 40 minutes on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 10, the library decided to move ahead with the land purchase. On Dec. 8, the Brookfield Plan Commission had voted to recommend that the village board approve the preliminary planned development. According to a press release issued Tuesday morning by the library, the board paid $589,185 for the property, using cash reserves.
One of the decisions the library board expects to hash out on Dec. 19 is whether or not to demolish the church building immediately.
After that, the library board will have to work with its architect to nail down final plans for the campus, including building materials and obtaining concrete cost estimates. Preliminary estimates for the new campus, including the 38,500-square-foot library building have put the cost at between $9.5 and $12 million.
It could be up to five years before a final planned development application comes back to the village's Plan Commission.
"The board of trustees is very sensitive to the economic climate," said Library Director Kimberly Litland. "The board is merely looking to the future in showing possibilities of what may be done."