Park district rejects new Lombard library plan
Lombard Park District commissioners have flatly rejected the library board's latest design proposal for a new Helen Plum Memorial Library next to Lilacia Park.
Voters approved a property tax rate increase in November after library officials promised to tear down and replace the existing building at 110 W. Maple St. But construction of the new facility has been delayed because library officials have been unable to get permission from the park district to build more than one story on land that used to be part of Lilacia Park.
Earlier this month, library officials offered a design for a library building "that does comply with existing air rights, with the exception of one disputed area," according to library board President Jason Brandt.
On Tuesday night, Brandt announced that the proposal has been rejected.
Earlier in the day, Brandt received a terse message from park board President Dave Kundrot indicating park commissioners had reviewed the latest plan and suggesting the library board should notify the park district's attorney when it has a formal offer that doesn't include air rights or other property.
"We are at a roadblock right now," library Trustee John Larkin said. "We are trying to get through it."
Park officials previously said the park district gave the library land on several occasions, including when the existing library was built in 1963 and when its first floor was expanded in 1977.
As part of the 1977 deal, the roof of the library addition was made into a plaza that overlooks the park. But while the library owns the plaza, the park district owns the air space above it.
In 2007, the park district gave the library a driveway with the understanding that nothing would be built beyond a certain height at that location. The park district says it has air rights to the north, east and west of the library.
While library officials were reminded about the air rights before the fall election, they moved ahead with the ballot question because of the poor condition and space needs of the existing library. They expected they would be able to work with the park district after the election.
The park district has offered to do a land swap so the library could have an alternate site for the new building. For example, there's been talk of the park district providing land at Lombard Common, near Grace Street and St. Charles Road.
But five people who spoke during Tuesday night's library board meeting urged trustees to reject any land swap offers.
"I implore that you as trustees hold your ground," said resident Amanda Ciatti, adding the library should remain at its current location.
Resident Mary Marshall presented a letter signed by 144 people that asked library trustees to "not yield to pressure to consider another site."
"The library belongs where it is," the letter reads. "Moving it should not be an option. Please do whatever is necessary to keep the library at its present site."
Resident Ken Marshall said a lot of people voted for the tax increase because they want a new library at the existing location. He said they wouldn't have supported the measure if the new facility was planned for a spot outside of downtown Lombard.
"Stick to your guns," he told the library trustees. "Don't let them shove you around."
However, one resident who spoke said that library trustees -- not park commissioners -- are to blame for the stalemate.
Resident Kelly Mullins said the library director and the library board knew before the fall election that the park district wasn't going to give up its air rights.
"Quit blaming others for a poor choice you made almost a year ago," Mullins told library trustees. "Put up a beautiful new building that will fit in this footprint. Let's move on. And if you can't or won't move on, then just give me my money back."