Who's to blame for construction delay on new Lombard library?

  • Helen M. Plum Memorial Library officials want to replace their existing library in downtown Lombard. But the village's plan commission won't schedule a public hearing until the park district and library resolve several issues related to the project.

    Helen M. Plum Memorial Library officials want to replace their existing library in downtown Lombard. But the village's plan commission won't schedule a public hearing until the park district and library resolve several issues related to the project. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 1/10/2019 6:13 AM

Frustrated that construction hasn't started on a new Helen M. Plum Memorial Library, some Lombard library trustees are accusing the park district of obstructing the project.

But park officials insist they're not the reason for the delays. In fact, they say they proposed a deal that would have allowed the library to rebuild at its existing location next to Lilacia Park -- an offer library officials rejected a year ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"You can't be an obstructionist if you're the one making the offers," park Director Paul Friedrichs said Wednesday. "We made them an offer that would have allowed the library district to build a new facility at Lilacia Park. They rejected it."

Friedrichs' remarks came one day after library Trustee Gary Brenniman said park officials are doing "anything they can" to delay the project. He said residents who want the library rebuilt at 110 W. Maple St. need to pressure the park district.

"I don't see any way this is going to get resolved without some activity from the people who passed the referendum to have this library here," Brenniman said.

Voters in November 2016 approved a property tax increase after officials promised to build a new facility.

More than two years later, library officials still haven't had their application for a 50,000-square-foot facility reviewed by Lombard's plan commission.

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Village officials say the proposal won't appear on a commission agenda until the library and park district agree on driveway access, air rights and other matters.

Approval from the park district is needed because it owns air rights above part of the library property and land next to it, including Lilacia Park.

But park commissioners last month said they don't want to negotiate with the library about construction of a building at the current site unless a mediator is brought in.

In addition, commissioners want the library to either reconsider an offer the district made in November 2017 or put the building "somewhere else by way of land swap on park district property."

As part of the November 2017 proposal, the park district would give the library air rights and land. The only catch: The library would need a variance from the village because the building would be closer to Maple Street and Park Avenue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Library officials say they doubt the village would approve the setback variance. But Friedrichs said the library hasn't asked.

"They don't have any idea what the village is going to say," he said.

If library officials accepted a land swap with the park district, Friedrichs said, "they most likely would have been under construction on a facility that was not hampered by easements, air rights, the lot size, parking variances and setback variances."

Nevertheless, library officials decided in January 2018 to proceed with plans that don't encroach on the district's air rights. It called for building a facility with two linked pavilions for roughly $23.8 million.

After the library rejected the park's offer, the two sides didn't talk for months.

Then in October, the village sent a letter notifying the library it needed to resolve issues with the park district before the plan commission can schedule a public hearing.

While library and park district representatives met in November, Friedrichs said the park district was never given a copy of the library's plan. In addition, the library never made a formal request that it could consider.

That's part of the reason commissioners want the library to pay for a mediator. But Brenniman said that wouldn't make sense.

"The park district is stalling on all this -- dragging it out," said Brenniman, adding that the park district wants the library's land.

Meanwhile, library Trustee Allison Pinkett-Floyd said the board has done everything it can to address concerns raised by the park district.

When there were concerns that plants in Lilacia Park wouldn't get enough sun, the library paid for a shade study. When parking was deemed a problem, the library had a parking study done. Most recently, the library had a sound study done to confirm the new building wouldn't lead to increased train noise in the park.

"It's endless with them," Pinkett-Floyd said. "So at this point, Gary's right. They want this land, and they're doing everything to obstruct our process. That's where we are."

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