Library project ticketed for no parking



Library project ticketed for no parking

By Mike Van Sickle

The proposed plans to finish the lower level of West Union Community Library hit a snag due to parking requirements in the City zoning ordinances.

As reported in last week’s Union, the local library’s Board of Trustees has approved the installation of a geothermal system, a new stairwell, classroom area, restrooms, large meeting room, an elevator, small kitchen, and additional program/storage rooms in the lower level of the 15-year-old facility.

According to the code, the library’s current proposal would require 169 parking spaces be available to patrons. There are currently 39 available parking spaces.

West Union City Council members discussed the issue Monday during a presentation provided by Library Board President Blake Brown, board member Bill Moellering, and library director Jill Clark.

Planning and Zoning Chairman Lynn Kelck informed the council that the library received a variance in 1998 to cut the required parking spaces to 39. He noted that the agreement also included no future development to the lower level.

Brown said that the library board had considered that library patrons park along East Main Street, near the site of the former North Fayette Middle School.

Councilmember Cathy Bemiss expressed her concern that library patrons would use public parking spaces such as those adjacent to the All Stop convenience store and the post office. 

Noting that he feels everyone is in support of the library plans, Mayor Kent Halverson asked, “What would be some solutions?”

“There has to be a way to work this out,” councilman Mike Lauer later added.

Bemiss asked if the library had made any previous attempt to purchase a portion of the property located east of the library.

Moellering acknowledged that the library board had spoken with landowner Earl Moss, but an agreement could not be reached.

Brown reminded the City Council that the library’s original building plans didn’t include a lower level. He explained that due to soil issues, a foundation was required to provide needed stability to the structure.

Bemiss reiterated her concerns that the library would be doubling its capacity, but yet not have the required parking accommodations for the additional programming.

Councilman Kennon Gumm acknowledged that he felt the City would “open a can of worms” if the library were treated differently than any other business requesting variances.

Council members suggested library officials discuss purchasing the adjacent AEA property (owned by North Fayette Community School District) and/or property to the south of the West Union Dental Associates. 

Mayor Halverson and the City Council later directed the library’s Board of Trustees to meet with the West Union Planning and Zoning Commission to further discuss the issue.

Prior to closing the library project discussion, Gumm also questioned the library board’s intentions to hook up to the districtwide geothermal system in downtown West Union.

Gumm noted that a previous City-appointed energy audit reported that the library is among the least feasible structures to fully benefit from a geothermal system.

Moellering expressed his appreciation to Gumm for the information and said the library board would further investigate the proposal.

Earlier, Fair Board members Brad Niewoehner and Jon Francis inquired whether the City would have any problems with a new beef barn being built on the same site of the former barn on the fairgrounds. The original structure was destroyed by fire in April 2013.

While noting that the only real issue the City previously had with the location of the building was with snow removal, City Adminsitrator Bob Vagts said new construction on the former site would require a variance.

After the Fair Board members were told to meet with the West Union Board of Adjustment, Niewoehner reported that other locations are still being considered for the new construction. He assured the City Council that the new building design would blend in with the other buildings architecturally.

In other business, the City Council:

• Approved invoices from Fehr Graham totaling approximately $8,140 for smoke testing and GIS mapping.

• Approved invoices from Upper Explorerland totaling approximately $1,830 for grant administration.

• Approved the hiring of fulltime police officer Michael Tobin of Mason City.

• Approved 2013 Urban Renewal Report.

• Expressed support of the Skilled Iowa Initiative.



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