Lombard Park District rejects land swap offer from library

Lombard Park District has released letters revealing it's negotiating a possible land swap with the Helen M. Plum Memorial Library that would allow the library to pursue a long-stalled project to build a new facility.

Unfortunately for library officials, their latest proposal has been rejected.

Lombard voters in November 2016 supported a property tax increase after Plum officials promised to tear down the library at 110 W. Maple St. and replace it with a new 50,000-square-foot building.

But library officials have struggled for more than two years to create a plan that passes muster with the park district, which owns neighboring Lilacia Park. And village officials said the plan commission won't review any project until the library and park district reach an agreement.

So now Helen Plum officials are seeking other sites - and one property owner they are negotiating with is the park district.

In a series of letters released this week on its website, the park district revealed the library proposed a land swap in April. At that time, the library offered to give the park district 1.19 acres, including its existing building, in return for 5 acres off Grace Street at Lombard Common Park.

But in a June 26 letter to library board President Jason Brandt and other trustees, park board President Sarah Richardt said the district cannot accept the proposal. The rejection came after park officials raised concerns in May about the library's plan for the Lombard Common site.

For starters, park officials say, the library's request for 5 acres seems "excessive."

But library Director Barb Kruser said the library needs the acreage so it can have its own parking lot and space for possible expansion.

"My board just wants the option to be able to expand," Kruser said Wednesday.

In a letter dated May 2, park Director Paul Friedrichs said his board understands the library's desire to be "autonomous" when it comes to expansion. But, he wrote, "the park district is not in a position to provide open space for some future event that may or may never take place."

Friedrichs also said the proposed site is one of the few the district has that's suitable for a large soccer field.

"The Grace Street location would reduce the park district's ability to provide a service that is currently in high demand by our residents," he wrote.

Another problem is the library's desire to have the park district take the existing Plum building "as is." The cost of demolishing a structure as old as the library - it was built in 1963 and expanded in 1977 - could be significant, park officials say.

"The park district will only accept ownership of the building provided the library district agrees to pay for the demolition expenses and landscape expenses necessary to provide the park district a clean piece of property," Richardt wrote in the June 26 letter.

Richardt then presented other options. They include exchanging the library's 1.19 acres for:

• 2.35 acres in the northeast corner of Lombard Common Park.

• 2.35 acres in the southwest corner Southland Park.

• 2.35 acres at another "mutually agreeable" location.

A fourth option would be for the library to reconsider an offer the park district made in November 2017 to allow the new facility to be constructed at the current library site if both sides can agree on a variety of issues.

On Wednesday, library board President Brandt said in an email that he's "disappointed we could not come to an agreement" with the park district. The panel is expected to have a closed-door discussion next week about what it's going to do next.

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