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Opponents protest library site

Design workshop gathers ideas from public
Laura Walz

Debate over a proposed new library located at Willingdon Beach heated up during a workshop designed to gather more information from the public.

About 240 people, both proponents and opponents of the proposal, attended the event, which was held on February 14 at Powell River Recreation Complex. Opponents staged a protest in the foyer, carrying signs that read, “No to library at arena or Willingdon,” “Stop now,” “No to Willingdon,” and “Financial accountability.”

Representatives from Miller Hull, an architectural firm from Seattle, Washington, Public Design from Vancouver and MHPM Project Managers, Inc., presented three concepts for a library on a vacant lot at the south end of Willingdon Beach, locally known as the old arena site. The options showed the footprint of an 18,000-square-foot building using between 10 to 20 per cent of the site.

Option A is a one-storey scheme that has large, open, flexible space. There’s a connection to the trail at the western edge of the lot and it uses the existing parking at the north end. Included in the concept was a ceiling design that brought in light from the north, which Ruth Baleiko, Miller Hull architect, said was the best for libraries. “If you mitigated and controlled the sometimes harsh light that comes from the west, but found a way to bring in light from the north, maybe that would give us a different look and feel for this particular concept,” she said.

Option B is also one storey, but is broken up into sections, with covered courtyards connecting them. It is also situated in the centre of the lot, but uses the existing parking and entrance from Abbotsford Street.

Option C, situated in the southeast corner of the lot, has a smaller footprint with parking underneath two storeys. The entrance would be partway down Abbotsford, across from the Chopping Block. The building could be seen from the corner of Abbotsford and Marine Avenue, while with the other two options, only the roof would be visible.

During the short question period that followed the presentation, Baleiko said a two-storey scheme does have staffing implications for the library. While there are no cost estimates for any of the options, Option C is probably more expensive than Option A.

City of Powell River Mayor Dave Formosa engaged in a dialogue with many of the opponents, who were in the foyer when he arrived during the break. May Monkhouse pinned a Save Willingdon Beach button on him while the group cheered and applauded.

He has always said he would like to use an existing building for a new library, Formosa said. “I’ve always said that we need to look at all avenues before we go forward, but at least this gives us an opportunity to start talking about it,” he said. “Where is the funding going to come from? What about the firehall we found out we need to build because of the other one? All these questions are going through my mind.”

Charlie Kregel, Powell River Public Library chief librarian, said the architects will now take what the public told them they liked and didn’t like about each of the options and create something new that synthesizes the best elements of all three into a preferred option.

Opponents and proponents packed council chambers on Thursday, February 16. Dino Ciarniello made a presentation to council, announcing opponents had collected over 2,530 signatures opposing the proposal. He asked council to respect the covenant that is on the property, preserving it as parkland. He asked council to adopt a motion “to declare Willingdon Beach as park in perpetuity and disallow any other escape clauses or changes.”

Formosa said to the crowd that they couldn’t be against a new library. “It’s the site, is it not?” he asked them. People applauded and replied, “That’s right.” They also pointed out, “It’s the money.”

Interested readers can find more information about the proposal online.