Next step for library move could be outside advice
BY PENNY COLES
Aldermen met this week to discuss what steps should be taken to further their decision on the library.
The motion that was approved last week said council would decide what further studies are required to help decide where the library and community centre will go, and the future of the Court House, and town staff need to be given the authority to proceed.
Alderman Rob Copeland told the Advance a workshop was held Tuesday evening, with aldermen, the lord mayor and town staff present, but he was disappointed with the results - he was hoping for agreement to go back to square one and look at alternatives to moving the community centre and library.
There are a number of options that have been presented from individuals and organizations that would keep a library presence at the Court House, he says, but will not be examined under the terms of the motion that Chamber and TEMCO should be part of consultation, alderman says
was approved last week.
He would like to see a committee similar to what was formed under directions from an Ontario Municipal Board decision to decide the future of the Cosmar property at Niven Road. A group consisting of town staff, Garrison Village ratepayers' association members, business and heritage representatives and the property owners, met and came up with a concept that turned the original strip mall proposal into an innovative new-urbanism mix of residential housing, with a commercial component of small shops and artists' boutiques.
But the motion that was put forward by Alderman Austin Kirkby last week and approved by the majority of council was "just tell us how to move the library and where it's moving to," Copeland says. It didn't address concerns of residents or any of the groups who have a problem with extracting services from the downtown core, and doesn't even deal with the town's Regional Road 55 property, which is how the issue began in the first place, the alderman stated.
"It just deals with moving the library and the Community Centre to God knows where."
Copeland would like to see council, or whatever studies directed by council, go back to square one and deal with each individual issue, including ways of maintaining the library at the Court House.
In a minority position on council, he says he isn't sure what can be done to get the town to look at some of the alternatives that have been put forward, "but I'll keep plugging away."
Lord Mayor Art Viola says the consensus of aldermen seems to be against forming a citizens' group and in favour of bringing in an outside consultant, who could be given direction to include public input.
"I think the best thing would be an outside consultant experienced at urban planning. We would provide terms of reference and information that has already been gathered from the public, tell him what has occurred and what we want to accomplish. He could meet with the different groups and come up with a consensus."
Although he agrees the approved motion would direct a consultant to begin with the premise the library and community centre will move, he said the consultant would have to consider the comments of the public that came through “loud and clear" to keep the library or a satellite at the Court House.
Meanwhile, members of the Coalition for Old Town Advocacy are doing on their own time what they believe town staff should have been directed to do - they are researching the impact a library has on a community.
There are several studies available, spokesperson Mary Jane Grant has discovered, that detail the economic impact of libraries on communities, showing that a library has a direct benefit to nearby businesses and to property values.
Moving the library from the main street poses a serious economic risk, she says -research proves that library patrons shop in local stores. "Without these patrons, especially in the off-season period, some of our retailers may not survive."
Alderman Austin Kirkby has argued that a library survey indicates 65 per cent of those who use the facility are there specifically for that purpose - they never get as far as Queen Street.
But with a loss of the other 35 per cent as customers, there would still be a significant economic impact, Grant says - research shows the average "annual spending of those who combine trips to a library with the purchase of goods and services from nearby retail stores at $500 to $600 annually - a significant loss to be borne by Queen Street merchants.
The coalition's impact study, which was given to aldermen Tuesday, also found extracting the library could decrease property values of nearby homes and businesses - the American Association of Certified Appraisers includes the proximity of a library when calculating nearby property values.
An Ontario report Grant quotes notes that "by helping to attract new businesses and residents, library facilities can have a direct impact on local economic renewal."
"We're hoping to provide a steady stream of this kind of information to the town -there's lots of it out there - in the hope they will use it," Grant says.
Alderman Austin Kirkby, who made the motion to move the library and community centre but study possible uses for the Court House, says however the process evolves from this point, she thinks it should be in consultation with residents and small business owners, including organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and TEMCO - in fact, "anybody who might have an opinion on what should go in the Court House."