New public library site still undecided

Miriam Williamson

Mayor Jerry Tolley postponed making a decision on the location for the new public library, stating Elon Board of Aldermen was not ready to vote.

“We’re blessed with the problem of having two excellent sites to choose from,” said Alderman Davis Montgomery.

The two proposed sites were Comer Field (known as firehouse field) across Williamson from the Elon firehouse and Beth Schmidt Park on Cook Road. Montgomery and Town Manager Mike Dula shared some of their research on both sites and preferences for each location were represented by different Elon citizens.

Although the land is owned by Elon University, the university offered to allow the town to build its library there without buying the property.

“It’d bring a lot of people downtown,” said Ken Mullen, the assistant vice president for business and finance at the university. “And it’d bring some vibrancy to the town.”

As the owner of Comer Field, the university intends to develop the area, possibly adding shops and restaurants.

“I didn’t want to say this to them, but [the library] will bring more people to the stores,” said Mullen.

According to Mullen, the plans for development are in place regardless of the town’s decision.

With the gift of the 13 acres though, the university has added a restriction. Once the library is built, if the building is no longer used as a public library, the land would be returned to Elon.

“I just don’t like the idea of not owning the property,” said Sheri James, an Elon citizen.

Mullen said traffic would not be an issue, because there would be more pedestrians as opposed to vehicles, but James had a different opinion.

“With so many students around, it’d be too crowded,” she said. “And personally, I don’t think we need it right here. There’s a library down the street.”

Through a program called Friends of the Library, Elon residents can use the available resources at the university’s library for just $25 per year.

Many citizens preferred the Beth Schmidt Park location. They said the location would be more advantageous for the people of Elon, and that it that it would be a nice addition to the amenities already offered at this site. According to James, Beth Schmidt, who the park is named after, is “very much in favor of having it in her park.”

People cited the benefit of the proximity to many neighborhoods that are already developed and the Twin Lakes facilities as one of the main reasons they preferred the Beth Schmidt Park location. Also, it would be the only library in the county that is in a park.

Ron Klepcyk cited safety as a key problem at the park. Although the nearby Cook Road would be better for access, it has a high speed limit will soon be widened, and Klepcyk questioned whether or not this would be safe for library visitors.

According to Montgomery, who received about 60 e-mails regarding this issue, citizens were overwhelmingly in favor of the park.

“If [students] have an opinion,” Mullen said regarding this update, “[they] better give it to him, and fast. ‘Cause this thing is going the other way.”

The cost of construction is essentially the same for both sites: $200 per square foot, or approximately $3 million total. This does not include other costs, but $80,000 worth of donations has been put aside for books. The plan to improve bike and pedestrian facilities will also work well with either place. Both locations will suffer decreased aesthetic consistency, according to Montgomery.

“We need to go into this planning for expansion,” he said.

So if the town decided to add on to the library, it would not fit in with the rest of the buildings in the surrounding areas. Whether or not there will be enough room for this expansion was also a concern for many of the aldermen.

The date for the final vote on this issue is indefinite.

In other business:

•Jesse Day, regional planner for the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments, presented the proposal for a bicycle, pedestrian and lighting plan, to accommodate alternative transportation. Recommendations included the addition of a 25 total sidewalk miles, including shared-use paths (a minimum of 10 ft. wide to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists), and the implementation of policies that would encourage pedestrian and bicycle travel.

• The board of aldermen discussed a proposed one to two day book sale, and a possible location to hold it. After 20,000 books were donated to Friends of the Library by a book dealer, Friends of the Library decided to have a book sale. The profits would be used to purchase things such as furnishings and computers for the new library.

•The board of aldermen decided to vote to approve Louis Wilkins as a new Planning Board member at the meeting on Sept. 9.

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