Posted by: rcieri | September 5, 2008

Long-awaited public library plans stall in conflict over location

By Rachel Cieri
Sept. 5, 2008

Beth Schmidt park is under consideration as a location for the Town of Elon's first public library. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Elon.)

Beth Schmidt park is under consideration as a location for the Town of Elon

ELON, N.C. – Plans for the Town of Elon’s first public library are still in the works as town and university officials attempt to synchronize timetables, but citizens have made clear which location they prefer.

Alderman Davis Montgomery said at Tuesday’s town meeting that he had received about 60 e-mails on the subject, with a strong majority favoring the proposed location at Beth Schmidt Park. Town residents seem to prefer the park location over university-owned fields near downtown because of its quieter setting. If the library were built on the property known as Firehouse Fields downtown, there would likely be an increase in both car and pedestrian traffic, which creates safety concerns for residents.

Elon University owns Firehouse Field, which is a proposed location for the future public library. (Photo courtesy of The Pendulum.)

Elon University owns Firehouse Field, which is a proposed location for the future public library. (Photo courtesy of The Pendulum.)

Elon University’s interest in the library, however, hinges on attracting more visitors to the downtown area. The school hopes to become more attractive to prospective students by offering a wider array of commercial outlets, and a library could help draw the consumer base for a thriving economy.

“This would create a more vibrant downtown,” said Ken Mullen, assistant vice president for business and finance at the university.

Whether or not the town decides to purchase Firehouse Fields, the university has plans to develop the land for commercial use. Since the creation of sports fields on South Campus, Firehouse Fields have seen little use, and university officials announced plans to sell the fields in 2006.

While the location near downtown on Williamson Avenue has its challenges, the park location brings its own set of concerns. The widening of University Drive already encroaches on a playground at the park, and Alderman Ron Klepcyk pointed out that this could present safety issues with pedestrian traffic as well.

Safety concerns stem from the town’s record of nine bicycle or pedestrian collisions with cars between 2001 and 2006.

The town is already undergoing plans to expand its sidewalks and increase the number of shared use and bicycle paths as part of a 20-year, multi-million dollar project to promote public safety and environmental sustainability. The sidewalk along the 700 block of West Haggard Avenue is currently being expanded, and a proposed 7.5 miles of sidewalk, six miles of shared use paths and 12 miles of bicycle paths may be built in the future. All of the proposed pathways will be lit for increased safety, and environmentally sustainable light sources are being considered.

Sidewalk improvements costs are estimated at $2.6 million, and shared-use paths are expected to require another $2.8 million. Funding for the project has not yet been determined, but it may come in the form of state-level grants, private funding or property taxes.

Plans for pedestrian and bicycle plans may be altered according to the location of the library, said Jesse Day, Piedmont Triad Council of Governments regional planner.

Because the Town of Elon is financially responsible for only the physical building of the library, it’s cost is expected to remain the same regardless of which location is chosen. The library will have regional proximity to Gibsonville and Guilford County, which does not have a county library system, so there is a possibility that these entities may provide funding as well.

The proximity is also expected to make Elon’s public library the busiest in Alamance County. According to Judy Cobb, director of Alamance County Public Libraries, the new library will cater to the well-educated population, the senior citizens of Twin Lakes Retirement Community, and the young children attending Elon Elementary School.

“The library was planned from the beginning with an emphasis on children’s services,” Cobb said.

The building will include a meeting space large enough for 100 people, and it is expected to be utilized by groups that range from book clubs to Boys Scout troops.

The board will continue to discuss options for the location of the library and will not be voting on it at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Responses

  1. Good info Thanks!


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