All content, of both the original and this blog, is written from my point of view and is my opinion. I believe it to be accurate at the time it is written. ~ Kyle Prast, Brookfield resident since 1986

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sorry Mr. Ertl, I really cannot tell the difference

Dan Ertl, Director of Community Development, formally addressed the Feb. 6th Common Council meeting from the podium: City Department heads and Mayor, this is important. Then he began by saying something about how the state won’t approve incorporation for the Town because of those 7 fragment areas. OK, I can understand those present a problem, but then he went on in his most serious (somewhat whiney) Dan Ertl voice, The Town does not appreciate a planning department. Look at the last 2 miles of Bluemound. They use cheap materials and have no frontage roads. We get blamed by people and bloggers for their poor planning!

Being a mother, I recognized that blame-game tone, it reminded me of 2 children finger pointing at the other one’s faults when both are guilty of the same infraction. No wonder Jim Mathes admonished both sides to “Grow Up”! I immediately started to travel westward down Bluemound Road in my mind’s eye. Was what Ertl was saying accurate?

Ertl continued. If the Town continues as an entity with 7 fragments or the smaller core, (he inferred they were inferior because) the Town of Brookfield does not have a Master Plan or Plan (department). He then gave a few examples of problem areas such as the 1992 Kmart building where Dan Finley had intervened to impose a frontage road. I was thinking more of some blunders our plan commission made such as adding more traffic producers to the Brookfield Square corner.

In contrast (to their lack of planning) I bring you to our process, Ertl proudly continued. Like Quebecor: The community established the plan, not a developer. The plan is in place before the developer. That is NOT the planning process of the Town of Brookfield. The meeting then proceeded as I noted in A few highlights.

It all sounded good. We plan and do things thoughtfully; the Town doesn’t plan and lets developers dictate design. But, is that the reality of the situation? I DON’T THINK SO.

Let’s review a few recent developments:
  • 2004 Capitol Heights: The developer (VK) dictated density, not the Master Plan.

  • Calhoun and Capitol Fairview property: Floor area ratios from the Master Plan were ignored and higher ratios allowed.

  • Brookhollow: The plan for a change from single family residential zoning to multi-family zoning was contingent on Brookhollow’s own Moorland access road yet because of a clerical error, that requirement was not put into the minutes. Soon we will have 80 condominium’s worth of traffic using a residential street as an access road.

Now let’s look at some other current issues:

  • Quebecor: True, the neighborhood is involved—that is great! BUT, that does not mean that a developer will agree to the plan. Most developers wish to build at the highest density on a property as possible. This is understandable; they are trying to increase their profit margins. (A few do come in at or under the max such as Thomson Corp.) The plan commission’s job is to reject those overly dense designs and hold the developer to the agreed upon density. The plan commission and common council however do not always hold the line on density. That is why VK’s Capitol Heights is too tall and crowded for the site. There is no guarantee that Quebecor’s development will comply with the neighborhood plan.

  • Calhoun south widening: The Master Plan clearly outlined the size and scope of the future widening, yet the city did not follow that Master Plan—they approved widening above what the master plan called for.

As for Mr. Ertl’s comments that the Town uses inferior building materials and does not use frontage roads, I found that laughable. I think Mr. Ertl confuses brick and stucco with good design. He acted as if all Town of Brookfield buildings were pole buildings and City of Brookfield’s were superior split stone—that by virtue of the building materials alone you could tell if you were in the Town or City. True, the Town does have some ugly buildings such as the Menards, but that property was recently sold, I believe, and the Town is looking forward to a more upscale development there. Like the City, when these types of properties change hands, they look to improving the appearance and access.

So, here is a test: Is the Galleria and Kopps on Brookfield Road and Bluemound part of the Town or City? It does have a frontage road, by the way, and it is brick. It is the Town of Brookfield.

Here is another test: Is the newly remodeled Pick’n Save, with its stark concrete look exterior, on 124th and Capitol part of the Town or City? It has a parking lot road. It is in the City of Brookfield. (What constitutes good design will be a topic of a whole other blog though. If you have any thoughts on this, I would like to hear them.)

Frontage roads: My definition of a frontage road must be different than Mr. Ertl’s. I think of a frontage road as a real, separate road, like Blue Mound Frontage Road at the Brookfield Corporate Center—something that would show up on a map. Ertl must think those parking lot roads that ring a parking lot are frontage roads—like the ones in Brookfield Square or the Brownstones. But if we count those, then how can you say the Town does not use them at The Galleria or at various other shopping strip malls?

Anyway, pay attention when you are on Bluemound. See if you can tell which is Town and which is City just by virtue of frontage roads and materials? Is the difference that glaring? Then ask yourself how much money our City spends on our planning department? Are we getting our money’s worth? Could that money be better spent elsewhere?

Links: brookfieldnow and betterbrookfield


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