Skip to content

Library board defends location

Growing opposition includes petition opposing old arena site

by Laura Walz Powell River Public Library’s board of directors has written a letter to City of Powell River council about the location of a proposed new library.

The five-page letter, signed by Linda Rosen, board chair, rebuts objections to the site, the vacant waterfront lot on the corner of Marine Avenue and Abbotsford Street. Meanwhile, a petition opposing the location is circulating throughout the community and is on the agenda of tomorrow’s (December 15) City of Powell River’s committee-of-the-whole meeting. Rosen’s letter is also on the agenda.

Last March, council selected the property, known as the old arena site, as the preferred location for a new library. Soon after, the library issued a request for proposals for a project manager and subsequently hired MHPM Project Managers, Inc.

In October, the library issued a request for proposals for architectural services to prepare a design concept for a new library. The Miller Hull Partnership, from Seattle, Washington, was selected from eight companies that responded to the request for proposals. The firm is working with Public Architecture and Communications, a Vancouver company. They’ve held one community engagement meeting and plan on more in the new year.

Rosen’s letter reminded council that making a choice meant the board would proceed to create a design concept for the new library, in order to seek funding. “Creating design concepts requires one to know the choice of site first; the new library is no exception to this rule,” the letter stated.

The library board has invested “considerable time and money into planning the new library at the old arena site,” the letter continued. “In short, the board has hired a project manager, an architect and is about to hire a cost consultant to create the design concept. These are contractual obligations that the board is required to fulfill and were entered into based on the mandate that council provided to the board. We trust that council took its action to choose a site precisely to ensure that this process runs its course.”

The letter went on to correct factual errors associated with objections that have been raised about the location, for example, that the board didn’t consider accessibility in its site analysis. Two of the site selection criteria explored the accessibility of the site, the letter stated, and the library’s needs assessment addressed the requirement that the building itself is accessible to people with disabilities. “Our architectural team assures us at the outset that accessibility at this site is not a significant design challenge,” the letter stated.

The letter addressed other concerns, including that the site isn’t central, it is inconvenient to shopping, it will require a two-storey building, the land is too valuable for a library, the site should be turned into a green space and the intersection of Marine, Alberni Street and Abbotsford is too hazardous.

The letter also noted that there has been some suggestion in public comment that the decision about where to put the new library should be revisited in a referendum. “In our view, this would be a serious tactical error,” the letter stated. “As with any major community endeavour, the public needs its opportunity to vote on the new library once all the facts are known: the site, the design, the cost and the funding components.”

Colin Palmer, Powell River Regional District board chair and Electoral Area C director, brought up the letter during the December 7 rural services committee meeting. In particular, he talked about the section addressing a referendum and pointed out that the electoral areas “have always said we’re going to referendum, even if the city isn’t.”

Texada Island Director Dave Murphy, who has been the regional district’s representative on the library board, pointed out that Charlie Kregel, chief librarian, has been told “numerous times” that the regional district has to hold a referendum before it can spend any money on a library.

The Board of Trustees letter can be viewed here.