Tonight’s Brookfield Plan Commission meeting

Here a link to the staff report again. Let’s talk about the Fountain Brook Crossing – PDD No. 14. (Item number 2 on the agenda.)

To the uninitiated PDD stands for “planned development district.” The law came into being when spot zoning was struck down several years ago. The law hasn’t been challenged, but I suspect it would still be labeled spot zoning and hit the skids if someone took it to court. PDD has also been reframed as “pretty darn dense” and “pathetic, damn disgusting.” People who get to live next to these works of City art rarely enjoy the outcome.

PDD’s have no rules. No height limits, not one density (building per square foot of land) requirement; nothing but your Common Council stands in the way of a developer’s wildest dreams. Trust me, your City of Brookfield Common Council has rarely stood in the way of one of these devices. But when it’s their turn in a couple of weeks, at the rezoning for No. 14, it should.

In a couple of pages of the hefty planning documents this city publishes is the idea that PDDs should only be used in TIAs (Targeted Intervention Areas) when specific planning has been done to anticipate everything the area will require for traffic and city improvements. The area for this project, the South Gateway Node, is a TIA, but there’s not been any planning. That’s a little fact Mr. Dan Ertl, the City of Brookfield Director of Community Development (who reports directly to Mayor Jeff Speaker), was a little reluctant to admit.

Here are the e-mails:

01/31/2008 01:08 PM
Subject South Gateway Node

Mr. Ertl,

I am unable to find any planning documents that are specifically for the South Gateway Node. I know there are several specific plans for other nodes. Has this area not been planned yet?


Cindy Kilkenny

—–Original Message—–
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2008 9:08 AM
To: Cindy Kilkenny
Subject: Re: South Gateway Node

See “Master Plan” in attached notice for policy documents. Such documents available on city website or Clerk’s office.

See attached file: ph Fountain Brook Crossing 1-15-08 revised.pdf)

Daniel F. Ertl
Director of Community Development
City of Brookfield
2000 N. Calhoun Road
Brookfield, WI 53005

262-796-6695 office
262-796-6702 fax
Neighborhood Plan
Zoning Code:

02/01/2008 09:13 AM
Subject RE: South Gateway Node

So there’s no specific nodal plan for the South Gateway.

Cindy Kilkenny

—–Original Message—–
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2008 9:31 AM
To: Cindy Kilkenny
Subject: RE: South Gateway Node

Not yet.

This project needs to wait until 1) there is planning in place, and 2) the owner is serious about developing the property. The owner/developer admits that even with approval, it would be a long time until enough tenants are committed to let the project begin.

Brookfield has a very unpleasant history of approvals that don’t get built. Georgetown Square apartments, first brought to the Plan Commission in 2003, is just now seeing a groundbreaking in 2008. To get that to happen the city had to approve a lesser known group instead of the first-rate developer that proposed the project. Capitol Heights has had trouble along the same lines. The retail portion of that project was sold off by VK Development and is years behind plan. Several attempts have been made for the corner of Greenfield and Calhoun.

It’s no surprise, though, that development APPROVALS (not necessarily starts) have been in full swing this year. There’s serious talk that if-you-build-it-they-will-come Mayor Jeff Speaker might not be long in the throne. (Heck Speaker even throws in taxpayer funded freebies for good measure!) No doubt that’s why VK Development is proposing a Swanson deal of some sort again in anticipation of more goodies for his fiefdom.

Does it matter to you that Brookfield spends thousands courting developers and pouring over their plans when they aren’t ripe for approval? It’s always bothered me. I’m doing something about it. I’ll tell you about that later this week.