In a letter to residents of the Lawrence School District last week, the Peninsula Public Library Board of Trustees announced that it could not continue its contract with the Village of Lawrence for the proposed Zion Park library site without “affirmative support” from the village.
“Because the village board declined to provide the library with the requested affirmative support or otherwise indicate an interest in working together to resolve any issues and keep going with this project, the library was not able to extend the contract,” the letter stated.
The entire letter is below. Click here for more on the PPL issue.
Dear Residents of the Lawrence School District,
In September 2017, the Peninsula Public Library entered into a contract with the Village of Lawrence to purchase from the Village a parcel located at the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Lawrence Avenue. This agreement was the culmination of extensive negotiations between the village and the library and considered mutually beneficial for the residents of the village as well as the wider school district. The library worked diligently for many months in consultation with its retained professionals to evaluate the site and prepare comprehensive plans for a new state-of-the-art library facility for the school district community within the Village of Lawrence.
The initial plans were widely disseminated throughout the community in July 2018 and displayed a new library building with almost 50 percent more parking spaces than the Library currently has. These plans also provided for the proposed reallocation of parking spaces in the village parking lot with no loss in the number of parking spaces as presently exist. While the library proposed a site plan for the entire area, the village would continue to own all of the property other than the parcel sold to the library and the village would therefore ultimately decide how best to design the parking and traffic flow in its property.
Although the library developed a comprehensive plan for a new facility benefiting both the school district community and the village at a new location approximately 500 yards from the library’s current location, a number of village residents at the Village Board meeting in August 2018 expressed concerns related to the proposed building’s size and potential traffic and parking impacts. Following the meeting, the village board was given an opportunity to review the library’s proposed modifications to the plans and to communicate any additional questions or comments so that the modified plans would be tenable to the village.
To address the concerns expressed by some village residents, the library reduced the size and scope of the proposed facility by eliminating the upper level and certain other amenities. At the village board’s request, these modified plans were presented publicly by the library’s architect at the October 2018 Lawrence Association meeting along with the results from a study on traffic and parking conducted by the library’s engineer. Notwithstanding the positive findings in this study, a number of village residents once again expressed concerns about traffic and parking. Some issues were raised about how the village parking lot used by Lawrence residents and commuters would be arranged, although the library would not own this property and so only the village board could make this determination.
The library and its representatives produced what they believe to be a suitable plan for the future of the library in serving the community’s needs. The agreed upon sale of the property at this location necessarily meant the village would own less property and that Library patrons would now also visit this site, so there would inevitably be some impact on traffic and parking. Being that the village is a party to the contract, that the village board is responsible for representing the interests of Lawrence residents, that the village would need to rearrange its own parking lot, and that a project at this site cannot feasibly be completed without the village’s cooperation, it was necessary and appropriate for the village to affirmatively support this project in order for the Library to extend the contract and move forward.
The village was therefore notified in November 2018 that the Library could only extend the contract term beyond December 2018 and move forward with a school district bond referendum if the village board affirmatively supported the library’s proposed project plans. Because the village board declined to provide the library with the requested affirmative support or otherwise indicate an interest in working together to resolve any issues and keep going with this project, the library was not able to extend the contract. This may be a disappointing outcome, but the library cannot reasonably continue to expend resources on this project without the village’s affirmative and shared commitment to move forward.
That said, there is broad consensus that the library’s current facilities do not adequately meet the needs of the school district residents. The feedback the library received from a public survey earlier in the year demonstrated significant interest and enthusiasm for this project and the desire for more parking, more books, more programs, more community space, more children’s areas, and so on. Even some of the village residents who opposed this particular project indicated they would be in favor of a similar project at another location. Meaningful action is therefore still needed to address the library’s undersized and outdated facilities and insufficient parking for the library to continue fulfilling its essential mission in the years ahead.
As the library explores other options in the future, it is imperative that the School Board works together with the library in this endeavor. The school board’s asserted designation as lead agency over this project underscored the need for the school board to play a supportive role in this process (whether it involves one of the existing school district properties or otherwise). The library and school boards serve the same 35,000 constituents of the school district, and the library serves a vital role for each and every member of the school district. Hopefully, the school district residents will one day soon be presented with an opportunity to vote on a new library facility that will better serve the needs and interests of our vibrant community.