Where should Atherton's new library be built?
Should Atherton's planned new library be built in the town's only park, the spacious and generally tranquil Holbrook-Palmer? Residents will have a chance to join the discussion on that question and other options being considered for the planned facility at community meetings on June 25 and 28.
The town is hosting the meetings to allow the public to review and comment on a citizen advisory committee's choice of six possible sites — five of them in the park and the sixth at the library's current location in the Town Center. The council-appointed Atherton Library Building Steering Committee (ALBSC) created a list of criteria to evaluate each site option during the workshops, set for 10 a.m. Saturday, June 25; and 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 28.
A needs assessment study presented to the City Council in February 2010 determined that the existing 4,790-square-foot library is far too small to meet the public's needs, and that a new facility of up to about 11,000 square feet should be built to increase the library's collections and provide more reading, study and meeting space.
The project would be "fully paid for by the library fund," derived from property taxes specifically allocated for the library, but which Atherton's branch has not needed in full for its operations, according to resident Denise Kupperman, who serves on the ALBSC. The money can't be used for purposes other than the library, she said.
Park sites identified by the committee as options for the library are: the front lawn near the entrance of the park on Watson Avenue; the Main House site; the Pavilion site; the North Meadow/parking lot; and the preschool site, near the southern boundary of the park.
After the two community meetings, the committee plans to present a report to the Parks and Recreation Commission on July 6, and ask the council to approve a site on Aug. 17.
Moving too fast?
A divided council on June 15 approved the committee's site-selection criteria that will be used to assess the options during the two workshops.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis urged a slow-down in the process to give the town a chance to develop a master plan for the park before committing to building the library there. "It would be in the town's best interest to take a breath," she said. "I don't want to go about this (through) piecemeal planning."
She also complained that two community meetings at the end of June, when many people are out of town, won't be adequate to let residents know and comment about the project.
Councilmen Jerry Carlson and Bill Widmer also complained about the speed with which the committee was moving, and urged more public outreach before decisions were firmed up about the site and other aspects, such as the size of the new facility.
Mayor Jim Dobbie and Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen noted that the council was being asked only to approve site-selection criteria and the two community meetings that would allow public outreach — not decide on the location or size of the new library; Mr. Widmer then joined them in approving the motion.
Community meetings to review options for a new library are set for Saturday, June 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Tuesday, June 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. The Saturday meeting begins at the Carriage House in Holbrook-Palmer Park with a walk to the sites under consideration. Tuesday's meeting is in the Pavilion in the park.