June 19, 2018
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Rockport residents voice support for keeping library in village

Stephen Betts | BDN
Stephen Betts | BDN
Rockport Planner Bill Najpauer discusses zoning issues surrounding the Rockport Public Library during a Tuesday night meeting at the Rockport Opera House
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — Nearly 100 people turned out Tuesday night at a meeting where many voiced strong support for considering an expansion of the library at its location in the village.

“The library works where it is. The majority of people love it. I would ask for a 100 percent effort to keep it there,” said resident Bill Peace.

Resident Jim Ruddy presented the Select Board with a petition signed by 112 residents who want the board to look at keeping the library at its location on Russell Avenue.

One limitation to expansion at the site has been that the library property is located in two zoning districts including a stream protection zone that does not include libraries as a permitted use. Ruddy and other residents said, however, that can be addressed simply by the Select Board placing a zoning change on the November ballot for residents to make that an allowed use.

Kathleen Meil, chairman of the Rockport Library committee, presented a chronology of the library issue. She noted that the library space is inadequate and has too few staff for the amount of use.

In May, the library committee voted to endorse the construction of a library at the former Rockport Elementary School site near the intersection of Routes 1 and 90.

The library committee is an independent board elected by town residents.

“It is not the committee’s decision; it is simply a recommendation based on years of study,” she stated.

The estimated cost of a new 14,000-square-foot library at the former school site is $3 million to $5 million. The current building is 3,324 square feet.

Select Board member Geoffrey Parker, who moderated Tuesday night’s meeting, said that the final decision on the library would go to voters.

One deficiency cited by Meil in a written presentation given to those in attendance was the lack of parking.

“Most of the community competes for the few available parking spaces, which are in great demand, especially when another local organization is hosting an event,” the report stated. “Some of the available spaces require crossing an increasingly busy and complex intersection, creating a safety issue and logistical challenge, especially for parents of young children.”

There is only one handicapped parking space and that could be lost if the village building is expanded.

Several residents urged the Select Board to put the zoning change on the November ballot so that the expansion option in the village can be fully explored.

Resident Brinkley Thorne said the library needs to be considered an important downtown institution. He said the former Rockport Elementary site has potential for other purposes.

Resident Bill Frohlich said that the country is coming off the worst economic downturn since the 1930s and questioned whether the town needed to make such a major expansion.

Meil said the current facility has inadequate space for patrons, programs and collections.

At the end of the meeting, Parker said the Select Board and library committee would schedule a meeting to discuss what to do next.

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