By Bob Uphues
Wanting more time for the village's law firm to analyze the language of an ordinance that would restrict public assembly at properties in the Eight Corners business district, Brookfield village trustees voted unanimously on Feb. 28 to extend a moratorium on any special use or rezoning applications for that district by three months.
"The additional recommendations [by the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission], while they were very thoughtful, I just want to make sure that they were properly reviewed," said Trustee Michael Garvey. "I hope this is enough time for the attorneys to give us the advice about how their recommendation could affect what happens going forward."
Trustees initially approved the moratorium in April 2018 after voting to allow the Rev. Karl Sokol a special use permit for Sunday religious assembly at his Compassion Factory Art Gallery and Studio, 9210 Broadway Ave. The village board extended the moratorium by four months in October.
In voting to allow religious assembly, some trustees indicated they were concerned that denying the use would trigger a lawsuit.
At the time, Garvey said his vote to allow religious assembly at Compassion Factory was informed by advice from the village's legal counsel and his reading of federal law.
Immediately upon allowing religious assembly, trustees imposed a six-month moratorium on granting any other special uses so that the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission could look at and make recommendations to change what uses ought to be allowed at Eight Corners.
Some Brookfield residents, with precedent for religious assembly now set at Eight Corners, feared a church might be allowed to be built in the district on land owned by Sokol's mother, Linda Sokol Francis.
During the past decade, Francis has purchased several properties in the business district, including three of the Eight Corners properties that frame the Memorial Circle. She has viewed a large parcel of property in the 3400 block of Grand Boulevard, which is owned partly by her and partly by the United Methodist Church, as the perfect site for a new church.
Initial plans for a community center/church were shot down by the Brookfield Village Board in 2010. Earlier this year, Rev. Karl Sokol revealed a new concept for the property that would include a mixed-use commercial/residential building and a separate fine arts center with a theater that would double as a church.
Sokol privately unveiled a version of that concept to Brookfield planning staff in October 2017 but has never submitted formal plans to the village. However, Sokol told that Landmark that if public assembly remains a special use in the Eight Corners district in the future, he'd be ready to move ahead with submitting formal plans "within the next month."
Asked why it might take three months for the village's lawyers to review the proposed ordinance limiting public assembly at Eight Corners, Village President Kit Ketchmark said he hoped the matter could be wrapped up prior to that time.
At a minimum, though, the village board wouldn't vote on the ordinance for at least a month. If it's decided to once again remand the matter to the Planning and Zoning Commission, that could extend the time line by at least two weeks.
Ketchmark said the upcoming trustee election at the beginning of April did not play into the decision to extend the moratorium.
"I was hoping to have dealt with it at the [Jan. 28] meeting," Ketchmark said.