The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday March 24th

Aldermen approve free-standing Carrboro library

Change zoning in old neighborhood

Hopes of a free-standing library in Carrboro will become a reality in a matter of years after the project was approved by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night.

Aldermen voted 6-1 to rezone property located at 210 Hillsborough Road to create the southwest branch of the Orange County Public Library system. The site will be rezoned from a residential to a business classification.

The move signified the board’s good faith in the decision of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, Mayor Mark Chilton said.

“This will be an opportunity to change what our relationship with the county commissioners has been in the past,” Chilton said.

Construction costs of the new library will total $7.5 million, but this will be cheaper than the $60 per resident alternative fee to use the Chapel Hill Public Library, which is not part of the county system.

The Carrboro library, which is currently housed in McDougle Middle School, is a part of the county’s library system.

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist cast the sole dissenting vote and said she’s disappointed in the lack of transparency and communication throughout the process.

“It’s very disconcerting that all of a sudden after 24 years, that it’s this or nothing,” Gist said. “Instead of fitting in with the neighborhood, it would put commercial pressure on the neighborhood.”

A March 22 public hearing raised concerns about possible increased traffic congestion around the site and prompted further discussion.
Most of the opposition came from Hillsborough Road area residents who worried that the proposed location would create issues with traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, lack of parking and the preservation of the historic neighborhood.

Carrboro resident Jeff Rubish spoke in opposition of the rezoning proposal at the meeting.

“People spent a lot of money on preserving the integrity of their historic homes,” Rubish said. “It’s going to be devastating.
“It’s like buying a Mercedes but not having any money to put gas in the car.”

But Friends of the Carrboro Branch Library representative Nerys Levy said the long fight has left almost two generations of Carrboro residents underserved by the county library.

“The interest of a few should not take precedent over the needs of 35,000 people,” Levy said at the meeting.

Carrboro resident Edward Bennett attended the meeting and read a letter written by Melva Okun, who he said has lived in the town for 34 years.

“For those who believe a public library will cause heavy traffic, the benefits of a public library would outweigh that,” Bennett read.
County Assistant Manager Gwen Harvey said in an interview that county staff will work with the Carrboro Planning Board and the N.C. Department of Transportation to address and mitigate the residents’ concerns.

“At this time, without having a specific site plan, we’re not able to be any more definitive,” Harvey said.

“But we know quite surely that these are concerns and considerations that are to be addressed at the next stage.”

She said a complete technical analysis of the location will be carried out in partnership between Carrboro and the state transportation department.

Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell said in the meeting she is unhappy with the conflict the discussions of the library have caused.

“If we don’t vote for the rezoning, Carrboro is seen as inhospitable to the southwest branch,” she said.

“It’s not optimal. It’s with reservation and reluctancy that we feel this site is appropriate.”

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