By Bob Uphues
Back in 2008, the village of Brookfield passed a law outlawing new curb cuts on residential streets where properties had alley access. The goal was to limit the number of vehicles that ended up parking in driveways in front yards and improve pedestrian safety.
Eight years later after residents approved a $22 million bond issue to improve residential side streets throughout Brookfield, officials wrote up an additional internal policy regarding curb cuts.
If you had a driveway that didn't lead to a garage or to paved parking area fully behind the front setback of your home, your driveway apron was not to be replaced when the road got improved.
While there was no public blow back from that policy over the past two construction seasons, the angry response in 2018 has officials reconsidering their internal policy and are soon likely to announce a revision to allow more "driveways to nowhere" to remain intact.
"Going forward, we've talked to the village's attorney, and we're trying to get this settled by creating a village policy that's consistent for everyone," said Jay Dalicandro, who was hired by the village board as a management consultant while the board searches for a new village manager.
In this year's road improvement project, which began in earnest last week, nine properties were identified as having curb cuts that would not be reinstated. Four of those homes are on the 3800 block of McCormick Avenue.
When he received a letter from the village announcing the curb cut to his side-driveway, which does not lead to a garage, would not be replaced, Tom Galbraith hit the roof.
What made no sense, Galbraith said, was that the village had already rebuilt the curb cut once, as part of a water main project in 2006. If the driveway wasn't up to code, Galbraith said, they could have denied him a zoning variance he sought when he built a second-floor addition to his home and could also have denied him a building permit to pour a new driveway and patio around 2002.
For Michael and Carol Hekr, who live in the 3500 block of Rosemear Avenue, the loss of the curb cut would be a personal hardship. Carol has had both knees replaced and walks with a cane.
There's a fire hydrant directly in front of the home and the property has no garage or hard-surface parking in the rear. To make matters worse, you can only park on one side of the street on the block, and can't park anywhere on the block on street-sweeping days, which happens once a week.
The block is also jammed with cars belonging to people visiting Brookfield Zoo on weekends when the weather is nice.
According to the couple, their particular "driveway to nowhere" – which has existed since they bought the house from Michael's father in 1980 -- is essential.
"We've never parked anywhere but there," Carol said. "I just don't know what we'd do."
Dalicandro said last week that while the letters went out to the nine property owners affected by the curb-cut policy, no decision have been made on whether or not to reinstate them.
He also signaled that many of the curb cuts targeted for removal may be allowed to remain under a new interpretation of the policy, which would allow "driveways to nowhere" located in side yards to remain intact.
"We're talking about whether if it touches your side yard and it's the right width that it would be permitted," Dalicandro said. "We're trying to coordinate everything. Right now it's a work in progress."
However, there may be some cases in which the curb cuts would be removed – for example for driveways that once led to a garages at the front of a property that was later converted into living space.
"The village doesn't want people parking in front yards," Dalicandro said.