Library opinions overflow village hall

Published 10:10 am Thursday, July 16, 2015

2-3 vote fails
to scuttle plan
to expand
current site

By Jim Buice
The Clemmons Courier
To expand the current library in Clemmons or build a new one, that is the question.
And it remained that way Monday night before an overflow crowd at Village Hall when the Clemmons Village Council voted to table any possible decision on the site until the July 27 meeting.
As the clock struck 10 p.m., councilman Norman Denny made the motion to carry over public comment for those who weren’t able speak in Monday night’s meeting and continue discussion among the council on whether to move forward with expansion of the facility on U.S. 158 or go elsewhere.
After a lengthy public comments session where 12 people spoke and a public hearing where 26 proponents and 55 opponents signed up to speak (many deferred on both sides in the interest of time and attempting to avoid repeat comments) about the site pitched by Ed Broyhill.
Before the 3-2 vote to table (Denny, Bill Lawry and Darrell Roark voted in favor), councilman Mike Rogers made the first motion to reject the proposal to remodel and expand the library at the present location. Councilwoman Mary Cameron seconded, but it was voted down by the same 3-2 vote with Denny, Lawry and Roark opposed.
Forsyth County has set aside about $6 million from a 2010 bond referendum to build (or expand) a library in Clemmons.
Proponents lauded the idea of the doubling the size of the current facility with the property costing nothing, thanks to the generosity of Broyhill, but Rogers said it was more important to have the right site.
“Money is a consideration, not an issue,” Rogers said. “The sky is not falling. We approved a budget with no tax increase. We owe nothing. Let’s move on with our obligation to deliver the best possible site for a new library. Do not vote for a used one. The current site falls well short.”
Based on the numbers signed up for the public hearing and an unofficial tally when one of the speakers on the opponents’ side asked for those against the existing site to stand, there were far more of the 150 or so in attendance opposed to expanding the current library.
Traffic, parking, safety issues and logistics of expansion while part of the current library remained open topped the list of concerns from the assembled crowd.
Cameron said that she still had many more questions that she had received answers and heard what many of the vocal opponents were saying.
“This is what I heard tonight – dismay, unacceptable, dangerous, precarious, horrible, unfortunate, limiting opportunities, silly, catastrophic,” she said. “Just because we can build it here doesn’t mean we should build it here. If it’s not the right site, it’s not the right site. Ask yourself one question. Is this the absolute best place in the Village to put a library? The answer is no, and if the answer is no, then it doesn’t matter if it’s free or not.”
Lawry said many sites had been evaluated in closed session over the last few months, that the council considered “all the properties that we could consider” and that an earlier proposal from Broyhill had “too many moving parts.”
He added that Broyhill was asked “to go back to his drawing board and give us a no moving parts proposal, and he did.”
Lawry said that spending money on land for another site would mean debt that Clemmons doesn’t need to assume.
“Do we pay $1 million for a library?” he asked. “I’m confident that if we do this, you’ll get a good library.”
Denny said that the land acquisition (several sites were evaluated) should have been voted on a month ago or earlier.
“But we messed around and threw other things into the picture, and then some of us were against it,” Denny said. “So, then the Broyhill site came about, and no cost to the taxpayers. That’s why I jumped over on the Broyhill site. There’s a lot there that you people don’t know.”
Broyhill, who was accompanied by a team that included a traffic engineer, civil engineer attorney and architect, said that he was excited about the possibilities of preserving and expanding the library in its present location.
“We have a lot of experts that are here tonight,” Broyhill said. “Our efforts are to try and engineer this in a way that will enhance the library better than you will have by relocating it elsewhere. And we will be establishing a historic district, I think, for Clemmons.”
A couple of former mayors spoke – one in favor of expanding the library in the current location and another opposed.
“We’ll end up with a bigger library than if we moved and built a new one,” said Nat Swanson. “From what I know, after all their negotiations over the last year or so, the property (of a new site) is going to cost in excess of $1 million that you and I as Clemmons taxpayers will have to pay for. Mr. Broyhill’s proposal costs us nothing.”
Meanwhile, Ed Brewer said that the location on U.S. 158 is simply not suitable.
“This council has a unique opportunity that no council has ever had to select a site for a new public library,” he said. “My office is on 158, and I know what the traffic is like. It’s bumper to bumper every afternoon from about 3:30 to 6 o’clock. If you put the library there, you might as well close it from 3:30 to 6.”
Jo Ellen Weeks, who spoke in the public comments and public hearing against expanding the current library, questioned the traffic engineer’s comments about what he called the minimal impact of additional vehicles on U.S. 158 entering and exiting the library.
“It seemed to me that the traffic study is completely from the wrong perspective,” Weeks said. “You looked at it as how the library will affect the traffic, like 10 cars an hour or whatever. No, no, no. We’re looking at how the traffic affects the library. Come on.”
Kay Stocking, who said she wasn’t a proponent or opponent yet, spoke during the public comments and expressed her concern about the process and that cost was apparently the deciding factor among the majority of the council.
“Whether I like the proposed remodeling of the existing site is not the point,” Stocking said. “What is a concern is that this choice we have is being ramrodded down the throats of the citizens of Clemmons. How can we know without a choice to consider other options?”
Roark had the final word after Denny’s motion to table any decision on the site until the next meeting.
“There are arguments on both sides, and in all fairness, I don’t think a vote should be made tonight,” Roark said.
Meanwhile, it was decided to recess this meeting until Tuesday night at 6 p.m. to conduct the remainder of the business portion of the agenda along with a closed session.