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Brookfield Common Council approves change to village area

May 21, 2014

The oldest part of Brookfield is growing onward and upward.

The city of Brookfield Common Council voted 11-2 Tuesday, May 20, for amending sections of the municipal zoning code regarding the village area business district.

The alteration will allow new buildings in the area to be up to three stories tall. Previously, the vertical limit for structures in the area was 2.5 stories.

Alderman Gary Makhorn says the new rules will allow for the area to have more variety.

"We really want to build in additional flexibility to our planning in the district," Makhorn said. "It doesn't mean that we'll be forced to approve all three-story buildings that come forward; we just want additional flexibility. Any of the proposals that come forward that are three-stories are going to be adequately vetted. Flexibility with scrutiny."

Aldermen Christopher Blackburn and Jerry Mellone provided the opposition against the changes at Tuesday night's meeting.

"I'm not seeing a reason changing it from 2.5 stories," Blackburn said. "Many property owners in the area feel that is perfectly acceptable. I didn't really hear any reason for change. It seems to me, if you just look at that area, 2.5 stories is the right level for that area. I don't see a reason to change it."

A resident of the area, James Callen, also took to the podium to protest the change.

"We just feel three stories is a little too high for that area," Callen said. "It's going to take away from the look and the feel of it."

Alderman Scott Berg admitted to having reservations about the new height limitations for the area, but voted in favor of the change, citing the need for more efforts to be made in developing the village.

"After $2 million and 15 years, it hasn't clicked.," he said. "What is it that we want to do different? This would be one option."

The village area of Brookfield is the oldest part of the municipality with its initial settlement dating back to 1836. Signs mark the area with the words "Where it all began."

Makhorn noted that the area has not grown as much as city officials had hoped. He hypothesized that expanding the options for the area may help.

"We've spent a lot of money on infrastructure with the hopes of making that a very vibrant area," he said. "The city really has a vision for the area that hasn't panned out as much as we wanted it to by this time. We haven't seen the progress that we want to see."

Mayor Steven Ponto supports the change and echoes Makhorn's thoughts that the new rule will open more doors for the area. Ponto, however, also believes the village has experienced pleasant growth in recent years.

"There has been a lot going on; I'm very happy with it," Ponto said. "A problem that we always had was inadequate parking, but we have added 40 new parking stalls. I think that the area has had the most life in the last couple years as it has in quite awhile."

He also reaffirmed Makhorn's point that even though three-story buildings are now technically allowed in the village, the city will still have to approve each one.

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