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Article updated: 7/21/2011 5:36 AM

Carol Stream holds onto library-owned property

By Christopher Placek

The Carol Stream Public Library will remain owners of a 7.5-acre property that it originally bought to house a new library facility.

After residents voted down calls for a new library in three separate referendums, there's been a push by some library board trustees to sell the land, which includes a house and former bus barn. On Wednesday, the board voted 4-3 to hold onto the property, located at 480 N. Kuhn Road.

Trustee Michael Wade called for the property to be listed at $750,000, and to not accept less than $550,000 or 80 percent of the property's appraised value -- whichever is higher.

Library Director Ann Kennedy said a recent appraisal of the property found it to be valued at $615,000. The house, once owned by longtime village residents Richard and Betty Lou Kammes, was valued at $35,000.

About 20 residents -- most in favor of selling the property -- spoke at Wednesday's board meeting.

"Nobody here wants a worse library," said resident Dennis Romanowski. "We want the best possible library we can get. But everything has cost. We don't eat at the chop house every night ... We don't need the best library in the world, because we can't afford it."

Wade noted that the margin by which voters rejected calls for a new library grew with each referendum: 52 percent said no in 2004, 60 percent in 2005, and 70 percent in 2007.

"We're getting a clear, clear message from our constituents: they do not want a new library," Wade said. "I just do not want our tax dollars tied up in that land, and I feel that money could be used to provide better services in this library or lower the taxes for the taxpayers of Carol Stream."

Trustee Dominick Jeffrey said the property is no longer an asset -- and the library could lose more money by sitting on it for another five years.

But Trustee Tom Arends said holding onto the land is a matter of caution, and selling it now would be difficult in a tough real estate market.

Trustee James Bailey said it would be "foolish" to sell the property.

"There's too much emotion here about other factors," Bailey said.

In January, the library board rejected a proposal from T-Mobile to place a 90-foot cellphone tower on the property, which might have brought in $1,500 a month to the library.

Since then, library officials have had informal talks with the park district about possible park uses at the property.

In a letter sent to the library board on Wednesday, Park District Board President Brenda Gramann wrote that the park district isn't interested in the property in order to "hold" it until a new library could be built. The park board's interest, she said, is that the land could be used for park and recreation purposes.

One suggestion, Gramann said, would be for the library to open a satellite facility at the Simkus Recreation Center, in exchange for park district use of the Kuhn Road property. That could relieve the library of $11,000 a year in property maintenance costs, and the property would remain tax-exempt, she said.

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