|Today's date: Friday May 24, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 21|
We Cover The County...
Above is an illustration of the new look of the lands along the Grand River near the Templin Gardens.
Over 30 parking spaces will be lost with expansion of Fergus library
by Mike Robinson
The expanded Fergus library has started a new chapter, with Centre Wellington’s approval in principle of concept servicing costs for the new development.
It was no simple decision by council, as it spent close to 90 minutes on Monday night looking at the pros and cons of the combined project, which would result in a substantially larger Fergus library and a revitalized riverfront along the Grand River.
It was a packed council chamber on Aug. 27, with area residents filling not only the chairs in the gallery, but lining the outer walls of the chamber around the council table, while others stood in the hallway outside the chambers.
Wellington County representatives there for the issue, stood in the hallway to allow room for residents.
However, after all was said and done, council endorsed the recommendation presented by acting CAO Andy Goldie.
Council approved in principle the Fergus river land concept between Tower Street and St. David Street and directed staff to continue working with the county to finalize the details of the Fergus library.
Council also approved the financial package for the work - at a cost of $665,000.
Goldie said Wellington County has approved $5 million for the expansion of the Fergus library and Ventin Group Ltd. is currently working on design drawings for the proposed expansion.
Goldie said council’s approval of the recommendation would allow the project to move forward. He said he believes many concerns will be addressed in the detailed design process.
The renovated Fergus library will measure approximately 15,000 square feet - three times its current size (5,000 square feet).
Some of the site work is expected to begin this fall, with library construction to begin early next year with an anticipated completion date of late 2014. Goldie said the expansion of the Fergus library, which currently has the best attendance of all county-owned libraries, will provide a substantially upgraded public building anchor in the downtown area.
“The project will require the sale of some township-owned land and the closing of a portion of Menzies Lane in order to accommodate the expansion at the rear of the existing library property,” said Goldie.
“We’ve also been working with the Fergus BIA, which has been working on a river lands concept for the improvement of the downtown area.”
Goldie said soil clean-up on the site behind the library could cost $266,000. The township and county will share remediation costs in a 60-40% split.
Goldie said there are two major pipes under the proposed library expansion. One is a clay sanitary sewer and the other a metal storm sewer pipe
“Both pipes are very old and have not been identified in the 10 year capital budget for their replacement,” said Goldie.
Those pipes would be upgraded to concrete, at an estimated cost of $250,000. Other utilities such as phone, gas and hydro will have to be relocated, at an estimated cost of $145,000 which would be paid for by the county.
Goldie said 17 parking spaces behind the existing library would be directly removed to accommodate the new building. An additional 17 spots will be removed through other parts of the project - nine next to the Templin Gardens and another eight in a reconfiguration of the eastern parking area.
The Fergus BIA concept plan would include a vehicle laneway to accommodate access for adjacent business owners. The proposal also includes the creation of a public space to accommodate special events.
“I want to reiterate there are approximately 677 public parking spaces in the downtown core,” Goldie said.
He added the BIA has been working for some time to improve the river area to attract more visitors to the area. He said there is a large movement in a number of municipalities to increase pedestrian traffic.
Goldie explained the township would sell the property to the county for $80,000.
Parking lot upgrades would be $335,000, while the inclusion of library site costs brought the total township cost to $665,000.
Goldie said “the county is looking for some direction from this council before they proceed to the next step.”
While there are aspects the township would implement, he said work needs to be done with the county on the design and access, and define the information for the river bank project.
However, he said he needed to know if council was prepared to endorse the financial aspect for the work and the conceptual plan.
Councillor Fred Morris said parking remains an ongoing issue with the public.
Goldie said “don’t expect the library to be cut in half to accommodate another 25 parking spaces.”
Morris said he realized council was not there to talk about the Aboyne closure, “however there is a trigger in the decision which will accentuate parking in the downtown.”
He said in light of area subdivision proposals, “is there any possible way to encourage the county to reconsider their decision [to close the Aboyne library].”
Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj added, “Absolutely we can take the message back.”
Councillor Walt Visser echoed the comments made by Morris.
He also wanted to know how Centre Wellington would pay for the work.
Treasurer Wes Snarr said it would come through the 2013 capital budget through a $330,000 grant to be repaid to the county over 10 years, $100,000 through the sanitary sewer reserve and $235,000 through general capital reserves.
Councillor Kirk McElwain said council had seen nothing on interior plans for the library or how it will be used.
“I’m trying to understand why we need 15,000 square feet when today it is 5,000 square feet. It’s difficult to jump on board when you don’t know what the end result will look like.”
Ross-Zuj stressed what was being asked for at the night’s meeting, are the things the township would have responsibility for.
While she agreed it was important for comments to be taken to the county, “what we are looking at is the technical component to promote this project going forward.”
Councillor Kelly Linton said he supported the idea of restoring the Carnegie library in a way similar to what was done in Elora and he also supported the idea of beautifying the riverscape.
However he had a problem with the size and cost.
“I do not favour the township spending public tax dollars to financially support a project I don’t think is in the best interests of our community.
“To me it makes more sense to expand Aboyne as the main branch” where there is lots of land, lots of parking (around the building), recently renovated, close to the upgraded archives and still have two excellent Carnegie libraries as smaller satellites.
“The primary role of the county library is not to kick-start downtown revitalization efforts. It’s role is to provide high quality library service.”
He also pointed out the project is not within the township’s 10 year capital forecast. “If it hasn’t been a priority before, what makes it a priority now?”
“We’re being asked to fund this, and personally I don’t buy into the project.”
Ross-Zuj explained that conversation has to be taken to the right spot to the people making those decisions.
The scope and design of the project are county issues, she said. “We are just addressing the infrastructure necessary.”
“As to the other issues, councillor Linton, you know where to go.”
She explained anyone can be a delegation either to the library board or Wellington County council.
She said residents can relay a love for the library branch and encourage possible ways of keeping it open.
“Quite frankly I don’t think that is an impossible thing - to keep the Aboyne site open.”
She pointed to the strong support of the community, and the number of users compared to the rest of the county.
“I believe the numbers in Centre Wellington could support three library buildings.
“But tonight,we have to focus on the reconstruction of the Fergus site - not the building, not the shelves - just the portion underground.”
She stressed those pipes do not simply service the library but a good portion of Fergus north of the Grand River.
“We need to address it properly, that is what is what council is dealing with tonight.”
Councillor Steven VanLeeuwen said his concern was the parking. He said the juggling of the parking spaces was one issue - until the closure of the Aboyne branch was announced.
VanLeeuwen said if Aboyne remained open, it would alleviate a lot of the parking concern to him.
Fergus BIA president Jackie Fraser was there to show her support and enthusiasm for the downtown riverfront revitalization project.
“As you know we have a very limited budget which is used exclusively for the beautification of downtown Fergus.
“We’re specifically targeting the gorgeous downtown riverscape adjacent to the downtown core. We feel we can enhance the Templin Gardens, the Milligan footbridge, the Grand Theatre and our soon to be renovated historic Carnegie library with greenspace, trees and lighting.”
She said the timing of the library project provided the perfect opportunity to work with the county and township.
She admitted parking capacity will be lost, “however we don’t feel this is a challenge we cannot overcome.”
She added most BIA members feel the benefits of this project far outweigh the impact of the lost parking spots.
“We’re truly inspired by what has happened with the newly created greenspace in Elora. They did not bow to the car.”
She was disappointed the proposed closure of the Aboyne library is creating negative feelings towards this project.
“We want to emphasize these are two different decisions and the Aboyne issue should not punish the people of downtown Fergus.
“Downtown Fergus has lost a lot of community space in recent years, first with the township offices, and then the public pool moving elsewhere. The library is now our physical community heart.”
Silvana Sangiuliano outlined her concerns regarding the parking issue in downtown Fergus and the implications of building the proposed expansion to the Fergus Library on current township lands.
In addition to previous correspondence to the municipality, Sangiuliano spoke before council that night on the need for caution.
She recommended deferring a decision until a thorough site investigation could be undertaken to determine the extend of contamination.
She also questioned how the sale of prime downtown land for $80,000 can be considered a profit in the grand scheme of things.
She questioned how “a library will be a downtown anchor if parking is to be sacrificed.”
Sangiuliano said she’d recently spoke with nearly 1,000 people who also had concerns about parking in downtown Fergus. They stated that parking is already difficult in the downtown area and were anxious about what will happen when a large portion of parking is sacrificed in order to accommodate the Fergus Library expansion. “I am certain I am not the only person to be surprised with the figure of 677 parking spots in the downtown. Where are they?”
She then asked how many blocks people are willing to walk to drop off a book.
Sangiuliano wondered why the main street and Fergus theatre cannot be used for special events without eliminating the parking space.
She contended a main street festival would provide more visibility for local merchants.
“There is not guarantee an expanded library will bring more people into the downtown core.”
Fergus businessman Steve Lund said he too had concerns about the project and the impact to his property next to the library.
As owners of an adjacent heritage property, Lund said he and his wife were shocked to only learn of the proposed scope of the project at a public meeting in July.
Only then did Lund learn of the proposal to remove a structure connected to the wall of his building.
He brought up the matter of loitering and vandalism - which he suspects may only increase as the walkways become more isolation from public view.
He was equally concerned that the area by Templin Gardens would only be accessible as a truck turn around, yet many large trucks can currently only access to the east.
He also believed there is a legitimate concern for fire, police and ambulance service.
Councillor Visser had concerns but said a number will be answered in the site plan.
His other concern was the Aboyne library closing.
County CAO Scott Wilson said the county representatives came in support of the project.
“I hope that the Fergus project can go ahead to fruition. It has been in the works for many years.”
Wilson stressed “the library is being sized to accommodate the next 100 years.”
“In 1912, 5,000 square feet was probably okay These buildings have outgrown themselves.”
He pointed to the successful renovations of the Elora library and other Carnegie libraries in Wellington.
“We need the property. And if the township council doesn’t want the project to proceed, it is in your hands.”
He added, “From my point of view, it only makes sense to have the chief librarian in the largest library in the county.”
He added that Aboyne had been the library headquarters simply because at the time of its construction, Fergus wasn’t part of the system.
“It’s time to bring it to its rightful spot.”
Wilson said chief librarian Murray McCabe’s report, adopted by Wellington County council, laid out the rationale for the closing of Aboyne and the new functions Fergus would fulfill.
Linton said, “To me, it is not the job of the county library to create downtown revitalization - and it shouldn’t be on the backs of the taxpayers.”
He believed any expansion project should be at Aboyne.
VanLeeuwen asked if a decision to keep Aboyne open would affect the imprint of the Fergus proposal, since it was based on the premise of Aboyne closing.
McCabe was reluctant to speculate on a plan already approved by the county.
“I’m here to answer questions about the Fergus library and how it will fit into the community, but I wouldn’t speculate as to whether the decision about Aboyne would be changed or not.”
Ross-Zuj said while county council had made its decision regarding Aboyne, she asked whether there was opportunity for residents to ask for reconsideration.
Morris asked why the Fergus design was chosen.
McCabe said “Fergus is a city in dire need of a new library.” The library as it is may be well-loved, but it is no longer meeting patrons needs, he added.
He explained the size proposed is to meeting Ontario Public Library guidelines and is based on the current and proposed populations.
Morris said the issue had been difficult because this is a decision which prompts challenge and demands change.
“While some fears may be genuine, change is also the road to the future. We cannot move forward progressively and keep the status quo.”
He said the township has to be ready to meet the new challenges.
Morris proposed that if parking remains an issue, somewhere down the road, the municipality might need to build a three or four storey parking garage to address it.
“I don’t think we can debate this simply because it will cramp our style, or fear it will take away from our comfort zone.” He supported the recommendation, “simply because I believe in the future.”
McElwain said “There are a lot of mixed emotions about the whole thing.”
He stressed he was 100 per cent behind the riverfront work which was why he was supporting the recommendation to move ahead. At the same time, he asked that council submit a formal resolution asking that the Aboyne decision be reconsidered.
Council quickly passed that particular motion.
Councillor Mary Lloyd said she was enthralled with a project in Copenhagen which removed parking areas to create beautiful river walks, bistros and places to bring families to enjoy.
“Centre Wellington is blessed with the Grand River, a heritage river which runs through our downtowns - but we continue to park cars on the edge of it.”
“We don’t always know when an opportunity is going to come forward.”
Lloyd said, “to turn our backs on an opportunity that may never come our way again is not something as a councillor I was prepared to do when I took this job.”
After close to an hour-and-a-half of discussion, council passed the original recommendation.
August 31, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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