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Library criteria OKed

By Rose Laudicina
Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved modifications to criteria for siting a library in southwest Orange County, moving stalled plans for a new library in Carrboro forward.

Formerly referred to as the “Southwestern Branch of the Orange County Library,” changes to the siting and location criteria included renaming the project as the “Southern Branch of the Orange County Library,” to more accurately reflect the population expected to be served.

“The change from the longstanding title was that we wanted to more accurately reflect the area that this library would serve,” Orange County library director Lucinda Munger said. “We want to make sure it is seen as an inclusive place to serve the surrounding community as well.”

Michael Harvey, county planning supervisor, told the board that although the library will be sited in the southern part of the county, it will be a library for use by all country residents.

The county commissioners are partnering with the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to identify a location for the library, and both boards had asked for changes to be made to the criteria to create a better process for site selection after previous criteria failed to identify an appropriate site.

A potential library site had previously been identified in downtown Carrboro at 210 Hillsborough Road, but the county commissioners voted unanimously in August 2011 to terminate the purchase and sales agreement for the property, citing concerns with cost, outstanding title issues and a less-than-inclusive search process.

The newly approved criteria propose a two-phase process, with the first phase focused on technical site review and assessment and the second on public input and assessment.

Included in the first phase is assessment of identified properties’ site conditions, cost and availability, physical attributes, environ- mental factors, long-term viability and ease of access.

Munger said that this phase would be conducted internally by Orange County staff and would take an estimated four to eight weeks to complete, depending on the number of properties identified for review.

After one or more sites are identified as viable options, the public, elected officials and the Orange County and Carrboro Friends of the Library groups will have the opportunity to give input on the proposed sites.

“While this phase doesn’t look as long or detailed as phase one, it includes significant input from residents in the surrounding communities,” Munger said, estimating that this phase could take anywhere from three to five months.

Munger told the board that the Town of Carrboro has already begun its own internal process of evaluating possible sites to bring to the county for consideration.

In other action taken Tuesday night, the board had another lengthy discussion on transit regarding the Interlocal Implementation Agreement of the Orange County Bus and Rail Investment Plan.

The agreement is based on the passage of a proposed half-cent sales tax that Orange County residents will vote on in the November election. While early voting begins in October, the county is still finalizing the details of the agreement.

“I think it is critical that we have this implementation agreement finalized,” Commissioner Alice Gordon said, stressing that it needs to be finalized before Oct. 10 so that county residents have time to understand the plan they will be voting for or against.

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