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Planted Seed Grows as City Pulls Policy Out of the Ditch

A resident's efforts led the Common Council to require the city to seed and mulch roadside landscaping disturbed by construction projects.

Some Brookfield homeowners learned that falling within the path of construction is somewhat similar to standing in the path of destruction. But a resolution initially proposed by 5th District Alderman Scott Berg will change that in the future.

In 2012, Berg received several complaints from residents near Brookdale Drive and North Hills Drive after contractors left their ditches ungraded and unseeded after repaving a road. The new roadbed was also raised several inches, which left residents’ mailboxes out of compliance with Postal Service regulations.

However, rather than seed and mulch the disturbed area, homeowners were on their own. It was the homeowner’s responsibility to seed and mulch the dirt. By its own ordinance, the city’s only obligation was to inform homeowners of their new landscaping chore. Residents' confusion was deepened by the fact that the city would restore the turf for some projects, but not others. 

Berg’s proposal to amend to the city’s right of way policy, which was passed Tuesday by the Common Council, would make it the city’s responsibility to seed and mulch ditches disturbed by construction projects. Residents will just have to water the seed. It would create consistency for all road projects in the city. 

“Residents had a road outside of their home for 50 years or more, and through no fault of their own they now have a yard that has dirt on it, needs to be graded, seeded, and other landscaping as a result of the city’s choosing to modify the road,” Berg said.

The next round of roadwork projects is set to go out to bid, and this new provision will be factored into the overall cost for contractors doing the work for the city. Berg said he would also collaborate with the Public Works Board in March to determine a procedure to apply retroactive repairs for homeowners who went through a landscaping ordeal in the past.

“I want it known publicly that I plan on making this referral to the Board of Public Works,” Berg said.

Tuesday’s decision by the Common Council was in part due to the dedication of Brookfield resident Jan Cobus. For more than a year, Cobus has been seeking justice asking the city to pull its ordinance out of the ditch. He worked with Berg to ensure the resolution moved forward after he was stuck with unwanted landscaping responsibilities following road construction near his home.

“It’s irresponsible to place that burden on homeowners,” Cobus said Tuesday before the Common Council.

He was pleased to see the ordinance changed for future road projects, and will wait to see how the city plans to retroactively apply the revised ordinance to his property.

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