The Brookfield Common Council on Tuesday turned down plans for a Wheel and Sprocket bicycle store and 75 apartment units at Capitol Drive and Lilly Road after a long and tumultuous meeting, with half an hour of public comment and testy exchanges between city officials.
Brookfield alders voted 11-3 to deny rezoning for developer Heimat Group’s proposal for a four-story mixed-use building at 13925 W. Capitol Drive and 3950 Lilly Road. Wheel and Sprocket and Heimat asked for a planned development district and incentive to clean up a former auto transmission station brownfield before construction.
Wheel and Sprocket, which owns the land it wants to redevelop, will have to start again from square one.
“The approval to move forward was denied. Wheel and Sprocket could submit another proposal and it would go through the process it just did. It would basically start the process over,” Alderman Mike Hallquist told The Daily Reporter.
According to several alders and multiple residents during the meeting and at previous meetings, the community was concerned about the building’s height, setback and impact on traffic at the intersection. The developer tweaked its building plans since it formally submitted in summer of 2022, including reducing the structure by one story and pulling back its setback.
“People from the beginning were concerned about the height of the building along Capitol Drive. It was reduced over time, originally five stories with a mezzanine on the Wheel and Sprocket space. Then the mezzanine dropped out and eventually it was down to four stories. People were uncomfortable with that, and they were uncomfortable with the massive building. We have to look at ways which we can come up with a proposal that has both support from people who live in the area and also from the council,” Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto told The Daily Reporter.
Ponto added he thought the site needs to be redeveloped and the brownfield “was not characteristic of Brookfield.”
Noel Kegel, the owner of Wheel and Sprocket, said his team was “disappointed” in the decision after it passed through several city committees. He added the team had hope they could communicate with Common Council members in the coming months.
“We hold out hope that we can communicate with Common Council members in the months ahead to find a productive way forward that balances our project goals with the concerns of the community,” Kegel told The Daily Reporter.
Tuesday’s meeting lasted for three hours will a public comment session spilled into half an hour and ended with heated verbal exchanges between some of the Common Council. Hallquist accused some of the other members of not considering Wheel and Sprocket’s proposal in good faith and added their demands for building plans and financial incentive ignored “economic reality.”
“To give a simple analogy, if all of the residents and alderman’s preferences were to be accounted for in the proposal, it would have been like demanding a 30-year bond investment with an annual return of 10%, something the market would never provide or sustain. There were multiple opportunities for those in opposition to communicate in advance what would be acceptable in an open and public fashion, but instead they chose to outright deny the project relying on legal language provided by city staff,” Hallquist said in a statement.
The development would have had a final value of $19 million after both parcels were developed, Hallquist added. Hallquist made a statement during the meeting and was cut off by another alderman and a profane comment from the audience. He was one of three alders who voted “Yes,” to the rezoning.
Alderman David Christianson said Hallquist was “throwing disparaging comments” at him during the meeting. Hallquist quoted Christianson in a previous meeting that Christianson didn’t want apartments on Capitol Drive.
As of publication, Alderman Christianson has not responded to The Daily Reporter’s request for comment.
Wheel and Sprocket conducted multiple traffic impact analyses and found with lane improvements on Lilly Road, traffic at peak hours wouldn’t get more congested than before, Brookfield Director of Community Development Dan Ertl told The Daily Reporter. If lane improvements aren’t installed, traffic would get worse, he added.
The developer’s height and setback didn’t meet the requirements the lot was currently zoned for, Ertl explained. The apartment and retail complex exceeded the 35-foot height limit of the zoning and didn’t meet the current zoning setback of 25 feet despite changing its plans in January.
The City of Brookfield 2050 Comprehensive Plan encourages density in the block and the zoning the developers asked for was encouraged by future land use designation under the plan, Ertl noted. Higher density involves flexible zoning in the developer’s request, but the Common Council ultimately rejected it.