Without zoning, Brookfield has been a “good,” “wholesome” and “proud” community, said resident Jason Nicholson.
Speaking at the June 19 public hearing of the Brookfield Township Zoning Commission, Nicholson asked zoning proponents to present their vision of a future Brookfield, implying that change could wreck what has been good about the township.
“What do we want, big manufacturing businesses in here?” he said.“Do we want big warehouses in Brookfield? Or, do we want to keep it this small community that’s always been small and close?”
Nicholson said he prefers the small, close community – without zoning, which is the regulation of land use.
But, zoning proponents said, Brookfield has not been unchanged by time. It has lost businesses, it has lost population, and it faces a crisis in the coming years.
The township has a large block of people aged 45 to 65, and a much smaller population between the ages of 25 and 45, said Trustee Ron Haun. As the people in the 45-to 65-age bracket retire, their incomes will become fixed, he said.
“You have this big block of people that are retired that expect these services,” Haun said, referring to fire, medical and police services,“and you have this little block of people down here that are going to have to support that.”
For Haun, zoning would be a way to attract businesses and young people by offering them a measure of protection for their investments in the township.
Zoning proponents argued that much has changed in the township, and zoning gives a way to address some of these changes.
Zoning committee Chairman Todd Fencyk said the attitude of the younger generation is much different than it was when he was growing up. People no longer look out for their neighbors and discipline each other’s kids like they used to, he said. There is less emphasis on keeping a property looking nice and in good repair, he said.
“Because everyone had respect for each other, we didn’t need zoning,” Fencyk said. “There was that unwritten rule that you kept your neighborhoods nice. You didn’t trash out other people’s places.
“This is different. Now, we don’t have that. People can go in and people can lose $5,000 off the value of their house immediately,” he said, referring to the effect caused by an unsavory use of property by a neighbor. “If they wanted to sell and thought that was their retirement, they just lost part of their retirement. Why do we need zoning? We need it to keep land values.”
Gil Blair, Brookfield Township’s attorney and a Weathersfield trustee, said the economic structure of the area has changed. The steel industry no longer rules, and the captains of industry often do not live in this area. Instead, business leaders looking for a new location hop on the internet.
“The first question that they ask about a piece of property is, ‘How is it zoned?’” Blair said. “And, if we say it’s unzoned, that’s something that gives them a concern.”
Nicholson wasn’t convinced, adding to his list of objections the public notification requirements in the zoning resolution, the nonuniform application of the existing Exterior Property Maintenance Code, and the politics inherent in the zoning decision-making process, such as for variances and appeals.
Even a zoning supporter like John T. Chewning questioned the application of the property maintenance code. That’s why he asked that the code be abolished as a stand-alone entity and its more attractive provisions folded into the zoning resolution.
But, instead of slowing the process as Chewning suggested, the commission approved the zoning resolution, which sends it to the trustees, who will hold a separate public hearing at 7 p.m. July 23 at the township administration building, 6844 Strimbu Drive.
Top photo: Weathersfield Township Trustee and Brookfield Township Attorney Gil Blair, right, speaks at the Brookfield Township Zoning Commission’s June 23 public hearing. Also shown are, from left, Cindy Matthews, Leyla Sartori and Noelle Honel.