Woodstock library trustees followed a piece of advice from its Facilities Task Force and voted, 7-1, to hire an architect to update its 2007 master plan during a more than three hour meeting March 19. But the action was not taken without contention from trustee Geoffrey Hanowitz, who urged going ahead with the halted plan to build the planned Annex on the site of the defunct Library Laundromat and said the board had been “hijacked” by a vocal minority. Hanowitz cast the lone vote against hiring the architect for updating the master plan.
Board President Stuart Auchincloss, who was also a member of the Facilities Task Force, advocated for the chosen course of action. “I think that we should do the master plan update first because I think that the public relations involved in doing a good master plan update will put us in the position in the community to move forward with the first phase of whatever project the master plan comes up with,” he said. “I think by that point, the community will know what we can do, why we want to do it and be ready to support that. And I think that if building something across the street is the first phase, that we’ll be in a better position to do that than if we were to decide tonight to do that because of the community outreach that we would be doing between now and then.”
The annex as proposed by Joel Sanders Architect was an 1,800-square-foot building on the former Library Laundromat parcel. The project was halted after community opposition appeared to balk at the $1.6 million cost and possible environmental impact to the banks of the Tannery Brook. At that point, the library board formed the Facilities Task Force to make recommendation. Along with the master plan the Task Force touted an expansion on the library’s north side as a possible way of filling space needs.
Auchincloss said he sees a master plan update not as a mandate for a specific project, but as a look at the entire campus including the former laundromat parcel, as well as being crucial to regaining community trust.
“A year ago, when we were on track with this project, there was enough public opposition in the newspapers and around the town that it was my opinion it would be hard to raise any serious money to build any project, whether we negotiated with Joel Sanders and got a $750,000 project or not,” he said. “That’s my reason for thinking that we should pause the annex project and get back to the community and regain the trust of the community for the library…We need community support if we’re going to do a major capital campaign, whether we do a bond issue or not.”
But Hanowitz doesn’t believe community support for the annex has eroded. In fact, he thinks the opposition was only a small minority. “This board should exercise its authority and make a decision,” Hanowitz said. He proposed bringing the annex up for vote, but his measure failed to gain traction.
Trustee Dorothea Marcus said the political climate has changed and the town has asserted no permit will be issued for a building larger than the former laundromat, which was only 1000 square feet.
The library and Town Board had signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, stating the library could bypass regular town approval processes because it was exempt as a separate taxing authority. Last summer Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said the MOU was only for a building of the same footprint as the laundromat.
“This MOU thing. Why don’t we just leave that to the lawyers,” Hanowitz said. “The community has spoken already…I see what’s happening here as a microcosm of what’s happening in Washington. Nothing gets done.”