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The challenge of economic development

Opinion: Editorials

October 30th, 2018 3:11 PM

By Editorial

The Landmark View

There's an election to choose three new village trustees in Brookfield next spring. The campaign is just starting, with the PEP Party announcing its slate.

So far, those are the only candidates to officially announce they're running, and as of Oct. 30 no new political committees have been created.

If the election does end up turning out to be contested, one of the issues that's sure to be at the forefront of the debate is economic development.

As in, why can't Brookfield do more to promote economic development? It's an evergreen campaign issue.

One of the reasons for that is the resistance to actual economic development that occurs when it rears its head.

Case in point: there's a new development being pitched at 3704 Grand Blvd. in downtown Brookfield.

To us, it appears to be a pretty modest proposal – three stories, 11 apartments, one ground-floor commercial unit facing Grand Boulevard. It would replace a dog of a building.

Neighbors are hitting the roof.

The reasons are also evergreen. The last time a developer proposed a mixed-use development there, in 2005 – by the way it was a bigger development of four stories -- the same concerns were aired.

Not enough parking exists now. There will be too much traffic. Why don't you fill the vacant commercial storefronts that already exist instead of creating new ones? We don't know who these new people are coming into the neighborhood. We will lose our privacy. Ogden Avenue is the village's real downtown, work on that.

If you've been around Brookfield for any length of time, you might recall the reaction to a proposal for a six-story condominium building on Brookfield Avenue just east of Prairie Avenue.

The fallout was enough to run the PEP Party out of office.

That building has now been up and occupied for 15 years. Do you still notice it? It certainly hasn't diminished Brookfield's attractiveness to a new wave of young homeowners and existing homeowners making significant improvements to their properties.

While the six-story's scale may have been a shock at the time, it also turned out to be written into the village's Station Area Zoning map. In downtown Brookfield, developers – if they've acquired enough land and can make parking and other requirements work – can build something up to six stories, by right.

There are scenarios, technically, where someone could pitch a six-story building that meets all of the zoning districts requirements, and it could get village approval without any public hearing.

That kind of zoning update was a direct response by elected officials who kept hearing "we want economic development" from residents.

Near the village's train stations, the kind of development being pitched for Grand Boulevard right now is exactly what the new Station Area Zoning changes were intended to attract.

There will be more coming in the future, because Grand Boulevard is considered a key economic redevelopment zone, as is Eight Corners and Ogden Avenue. 

The challenge is to make sure developments are sensitive to neighbors while at the same time allowing openness to change.