By Susan Dickson
CARRBORO â€“ Taking another step toward a long-awaited freestanding southwest Orange County library in Carrboro, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve criteria recommended to the county for siting a library in town.
Despite previous disagreements regarding the criteria, board members and members of the Friends of the Carrboro Branch Library appeared to have mostly resolved their issues and come together on the criteria in order to move forward.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners have asked the board of aldermen to review criteria for siting a southwest Orange County library in Carrboro. Carrboro has a county library within the McDougle School, but community members have long advocated for a freestanding library, citing concerns with the visibility of the library and limited hours of operation.
Members of the board of aldermen have said their top priorities for a library site are accessibility via public transit, walkability and bikeability. Nerys Levy, a member of the Friends and longtime library advocate, stressed the importance of having a library with ample parking, given that a considerable number of senior citizens will be patronizing the library.
â€œCycling is not what a lot of them will be doing,â€ she said, also noting the importance of access to information.
â€œThese are economic times when a lot of people really canâ€™t afford to pay for computer access,â€ she said. â€œWith all the technologies in the world, libraries are places that not only have access to books â€¦ but access to information is really a key component in new libraries.â€
Mayor Mark Chilton said that while he understood the need for patrons to be able to drive to the library, he felt that both the Orange County Main Library in Hillsborough and the Chapel Hill Public Library served that need.
â€œTo me it seems like the real issue is [access for] people who donâ€™t have cars and canâ€™t drive â€“ people who are under 16, people who are not wealthy enough to own a motor vehicle or people who just choose not to have a motor vehicle,â€ he said.
The countyâ€™s proposed criteria stipulate that proposed library sites go through three phases of screening to ensure selection of the best possible site. Phase one considers visibility, long-term functionality and accessibility; phase two, centrality/direct benefits, site conditions/sustainability and reasonable cost; and phase three, critique of the site by stakeholders, lease vs. purchase and the possibility of partnerships.
The board of aldermen recommended criteria that include soliciting community input earlier in the process than proposed by the county.
Board member Lydia Lavelle said she would like for the county to solicit site suggestions from property owners who want their property to be considered as a library site.
â€œWe all know that there are people who keep calling us, keep approaching us, keep talking to us about ideas,â€ she said. â€œThe countyâ€™s the one thatâ€™s going to end up deciding â€˜hereâ€™s the one we want to put forward for the community to look at.â€™â€
The board also heard from town planning director Trish McGuire regarding the possibility of expanding Carrboro Town Hall for library use. McGuire said the site could present a number of issues, including structural issues with loading that library usage would require, a parking shortage and others.
In other action Tuesday night, the board heard a report on the Oak-Poplar neighborhood traffic circulation study and the West Main Street lane reduction. Possible solutions to identified traffic issues include modifying pavement markings on West Main Street to reduce travel lanes from four to two plus a center turn lane, making Oak Avenue one-way, traffic calming on Oak Avenue and Shelton Street, reconstructing the Shelton/Hillsborough Road/West Main intersection, mid-block pedestrian crossings on West Main and others.
The report will be referred to the Transportation Advisory Board for review.