Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Percheron Square: Again, Density is the Problem

City of Brookfield, Development, Elmbrook

The Commission OKs plans for Ruby Farms site.  What I find so frustrating with our Plan Commission is that they grant PDDs and project proposals so easily. Oh, they raise all sorts of questions and concerns, but then vote as if with one "Aye."

Tuesday's meeting was interesting. There were a lot of points the mayor, AVS Development (VK), and commissioners were careful to make. These are not direct quotes, just my impression of the statements.  Watch cable broadcast for exact words:

Mayor makes a point of asking Ajay of AVS something about the amount of runoff water after development vs. before development.

Ajay: Considering the storms this weekend, there will be questions about storm water. We are meeting and exceeding ordinances.

Mayor: You're going to reduce current runoff?

Ajay: Yes,  AVS will sell construction ready pads [to other developers]. We, [AVS] are not requesting public assistance for storm water [or parking structures.]

In other words, no TID district to AVS. More details about what Percheron Square will include. Plans include 1/2 million sq. ft. in office space and parking structure buildings along with 210 condos, retail, an 126 unit extended stay hotel, fitness center, 80 resident assisted living, and Ruby farmsted.(Since Mrs. Ruby still lives there, I don't think they had much of a choice.)

More talk about how much tax base Percheron would add to Brookfield--estimated at $250 million.

Mayor questions Ajay about the office space.

Mayor: Our plan called for 1 million square feet in office space and you are saying less? 

The neighborhood plan did not have all the retail in it that Percheron Square has (852,000 sq. ft?).

Ajay: Yes, our office space was based on [5] parking decks, with that we get 420,000. With no decks, surface parking will cause office space to go down about 1/2.

 Mayor: You're not asking for any TID money for decks?

I think Ajay had to clarify this. The other developer could ask for TID to keep the decks and thus keep all office space of 420,000 of the freestanding office space, not the retail/office mix along Bluemound. 

The subject of connectivity came up several times. Approval based on Patrick Blvd. connecting to Percheron Square does not seem to be a major issue. (Patrick Blvd. extension runs through the neighboring DNR designated wetlands.)

Jennifer Donze raised some good points.

Donze: One of the things I feel is important to plan is the connection to office parks to the west. If we wait for DNR approval after plan [approval] that keeps us from other alternatives. I would request the permit to the DNR prior to the public hearing. 

She also brought up the narrow feel of Percheron Square Drive, a north south internal connection road between the tall office buildings.

Donze: 29 feet back to back is too narrow.

Mayor: "Narrower roads serve as traffic calming."  We have school on the other side, a narrower road puts drivers on notice that this is not a cut through, but a definite purpose.

Is that the same mayor who did not care that the Calhoun south neighborhood is now constructing a roadway the size of some highways cutting through it? 

Mark Nelson brought up this point and even said that other plans were denied because there were not other road connections within.

Mark Nelson: The dominoes needed to fall no matter who developed it. The one domino that is essential is the Patrick Blvd. We've stopped entire subdivisions because of too many culdusacs. We're lessening our standards without knowing what we can do with Patrick Blvd. 

The other domino is the Ruby and Swanson Swap. It seems to me those dominoes aren't going to fall in place right now. If we approve this, when can Mark Nelson step forward and say, Let's reduce buildings and heights

More work needs to be done to get it right.  

I heartily agree.  

Original plans of having Ruby Lane extended into the project have been scrapped. We were told that Elmbrook is not interested in any kind of playfield swap.

Jennifer Donze wished the future Ruby Lane extension would stay on the map.

Donze: There could be some time in the future that the school is no longer there. Why not keep it on the map for future use the city could not foresee? Sometimes plans aren't realized for 50 years.

Ertl fielded that one.

Ertl: School district lands are owned and controlled by the district... Matt Gibson was keen on the idea that the entire project was planned without needing school land.    

 Later Gary Mahkorn assured all that Swanson was off the table.

Mahkorn: I support taking Ruby Lane as a good will gesture to the School District off the map. It is an honorable gesture. I have a hard time believing Swanson will ever move. [Reference to I was at that Town Hall meeting with all the people.]

Why does that make me not feel assured? 

Talk of the poor economic climate and how this project was coming in not asking for TID money. Remember though, it is AVS not asking for TID money. There still could be a request for TID help for the parking structures. (Parking structures cost $15-16,000 each vs. surface parking at $2,000.)

This project is over the current FAR zoning of 30%. Of course the Plan Commission is salivating at the proposed $250 million increase to our tax base, so we know they will approve the PDD. I always ask myself, of that $250 mil, how much will it cost taxpayers in increased city services? Adding that much retail, office, and residential is bound to increase demand on fire, police, schools, and infrastructure, and add to traffic congestion. Plus, Brookfield does not have unlimited water supplies and certainly our sewer capacity does not seem to have excess capacity either.

There finally was some real clarification about the storm water. The Mayor again asked something about the water flow. 

Mayor: The water flow, once they do their grading it will decrease the amount?

Jeff  Chase: The devil is in the details. I haven't reviewed their plan yet, I have no reason to doubt their presentation.

Someone mentioned a standard of 120 ft/second. They propose 98 feet/second. (Sorry, I don't know if it was Chase or the next speaker.)

Then some "Expert" from the project stepped up to the podium. I think he felt he had to clarify.

Expert: The PEAK runoff rate, that is down 20%, not the total.
Jennifer Donze pipes up to help the mayor (and me) understand.
 Donze: They are slowing it down.

Bottom line is, after all the questions and doubts expressed, Gary Mahkorn makes his usual pronouncement...

Mahkorn: We're being asked to approve a PDD general plan, we're not committing to anything right now. Mark and Jennifer's issues ...[all the detail isn't there, but it doesn't need to be there.] 

We all knew someday Ruby Farm would be developed. I am prepared to approve the request tonight. All the other tough questions will be answered down the road. 

And with that, they all voted, AYE. 

Why is it whenever I hear "We aren't committing to anything now" later on, it seems, nothing can be changed? 

Public hearing is tentatively scheduled for  Monday, July 15th's Plan Commission meeting.


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