Woodstock Library trustees debated on September 18 whether to file for a DEC permit to settle the question as to whether an annex can be built on the site of the former Library Laundromat. At the same time, their facilities task force made preparations for the first of what they say will be many public-input meetings on the proposed annex project, on Tuesday, September 30.
Under the heading of “new business” at the end of the meeting, Trustee Geoffrey Hanowitz pushed the issue of a permit application through the state Department of Environmental Conservation, arguing that it’s the only way to find out if new construction would be allowed on the site, alongside the Tannery Brook on Library Lane. The DEC has jurisdiction since any building on the site would be right next to the waterway. Library officials had begun the permitting process, but stopped when public outcry stalled the project.
“With all due respect to the people in the community and on the task force, we have a substantial amount of money spent on the annex,” Hanowitz said, arguing for the move. “We hired engineers, architects, we paid good money.”
Board members took a variety of positions.
Trustee Dorothea Marcus disagreed, saying it would create a public relations disaster. “We’ve made tremendous progress to see if there’s a better solution,” Marcus said.
Trustee Jesse Jones said he’s had little time to think about it and wanted to give it more time.
“There’s a reason there’s a task force,” said board member Barry Miller. “They will make a recommendation.”
But Hanowitz feels all other work may be a waste if it turns out nobody can build on the site. “A lot of really generous people donated money to buy that property. I think we owe it to them,” he said. “We need to see if we can build across the street. I’m not asking to put shovels in the ground. The only people who can tell us whether we can build on this property are the DEC.”
Trustee Katryna Barber was astounded nobody on the task force thought to ask earlier if anyone could build on the site. She suggested the task force look into the issue.
The proposed $1.6 million annex design by Joel Sanders includes a 2,050 square feet of space on an 1,800-square-foot footprint at the site of the former Library Laundromat across Library Lane that includes a 65-seat meeting space that can be divided into smaller areas, a “maker-space” workshop, two unisex bathrooms, a small kitchen, storage room, front and rear decks and a roof deck.
The project was originally estimated at $400,000-$500,000, but costs skyrocketed when trustees realized building the former laundromat’s small footprint was inadequate for the library’s needs.
Although trustees plan to have the bulk of the annex funded through private donors, the project is on hold after public outcry over its scope, environmental issues and accusations of mismanagement.
President Stuart Auchincloss recommended the permit matter be tabled, noting a DEC permit application requires a public comment period and would create troublesome public relations. But Hanowitz disagreed with that. “I really resent that people are putting public relations before the needs of this library,” said Hanowitz. “I don’t want to make decisions based on the fear of people with sharp pencils who are going to write letters to the paper.”
Barber thought going around the task force and seeking a permit “didn’t seem right” and is almost insulting.