Lombard Park District commissioners say library officials have known for more than a year that the commissioners oppose any plans to have a new $22.3 million building encroach into neighboring Lilacia Park.
Now that opposition has complicated negotiations between the two taxing bodies and is threatening to delay start of construction of the new library beyond this summer.
The library in November successfully asked voters to approve a property tax increase so it could demolish the outdated Helen M. Plum Memorial Library and replace it with a larger and more modern structure at 110 W. Maple St.
Since that time, though, negotiations have slowed because the park district, which owns Lilacia Park, refuses to give the library permission to build more than one story on land that used to be part of the park.
Library officials said last week they had expected to negotiate an agreement with the park district, but talks have not gone smoothly since the November election.
In a written statement released Friday, park commissioners said the library was notified last February about the park district's concerns regarding a possible expansion into Lilacia Park. The library was told any new building should not encroach into the park, which is the site of Lombard's annual Lilac Time festival.
"During the following nine months, the library district presented to the residents elevations and floor plans for a new library that encroached into Lilacia Park and was not within their property lines," park commissioners said in the statement.
On Monday, Sue Wilsey, the library's communications manager, declined to comment about the park commissioners' statement.
She said the library is focused on developing a design for a roughly 50,000-square-foot building that would stay within its property and honor Lilacia Park's air rights.
"The community really wants their library," Wilsey said, "and we're going to try to do everything we can to make it happen."
Wilsey said library staff and board members didn't receive any formal feedback from park district officials about the earlier "concept" shown during the campaign.
"We had always said it was a concept," she said. "We never said that this was a final plan. I think all the people that we spoke to understood that there could be things that would be negotiated or modified. That's what we're in the process of doing right now."
While library officials did a presentation for them on March 29, 2016, park commissioners say "the park district remained silent on the issue to avoid accusations of tampering with their referendum."
Park commissioners said there were no discussions between any staff or board members about the library's expansion, waiving air rights, or providing land until after the November election.
The reason the library needs air rights from the park district dates to 1978, when it acquired part of Lilacia Park so it could expand its first floor.
As part of that deal, the roof of the library addition was made into a plaza that overlooks the park. While the library owns the plaza deck, the park district owns the air space above it.
"Both parties have known the ramifications of that mutual understanding and agreement for almost 40 years," park commissioners said in their statement.
Since that pact was approved, park commissioners have opposed any plans by the library to put a taller building on the former park land.
After the November referendum, the park district proposed a land swap. If approved, the library would give its land near Lilacia Park to the park district in exchange for an alternate site for the new library building.
"The park district has provided options that could potentially save taxpayers' dollars in moving, book storage and temporary site costs," park commissioners said. The options also would assist with parking and stormwater issues, they said.
Library officials said the park district initially offered Southland Park, but they said a previous study determined the site isn't suitable for a 50,000-square-foot library.
There's been talk of the park district providing land at Lombard Common, near Grace Street and St. Charles Road, but Wilsey said no formal offer has been made to the library. In addition, the cost of a stormwater retention system for the site would be very expensive.
Meanwhile, library officials said they told voters the library wouldn't move, so they still plan to build at the current site.
The proposal calls for the building to have two floors on property the library entirely owns, including additional land it acquired to the west. The building would be just one story on land where the park has air rights and the plaza deck would be rebuilt.