What is the most important issue facing the Barrington Public Library District?
As an award-winning and cutting-edge library, Barrington Area Library has enjoyed significant community support for decades. Its commitment to innovation and relevancy in the community has attracted some of the best professional library staff in the nation. However, the most recent overture by the Village of Barrington to re-direct Lake Zurich Road through the library’s parking lot through the purchase of one-third of the library’s property is a sobering reminder that the Library District must be vigilant in protecting its future.
With the fiscal pressures facing all local governments – particularly those like library districts that are subject to tax caps – the resources of the library must be carefully preserved and protected. Every decision on the disposal of library property will have long-term consequences, and those decisions should not be relegated to short-term political efforts or short-sighted political pressure by individuals who have no fiduciary responsibility to the Library District.
Why did the majority of the Library Board decide to cease negotiations to sell its property?
While the Library Board has been carefully listening and considering the Village’s vision to alleviate traffic concerns on Northwest Highway for over 20 years, the Village’s latest proposal ultimately would have been a sacrifice for the Library District and taken the library from “a library in a park to a library on a highway.” The Library Board will continue to be a partner in considering the Village’s proposals, but a real solution will require a more thoughtful assessment of the costs and benefits, as well as the input from public and private property stakeholders in the larger Northwest Highway campus community.
The concerns with the most recent Village proposal included:
The fiduciary predicament of swapping out a stable and appreciating asset – real property – for a depreciating asset (a redesigned parking lot) and cash that the Library District is unable to reinvest in property anytime in the near future. The remaining property would likely depreciate as a result.
The significant cost of the project – nearly $9.8 million – and the concern that a fair price for the property would not be realized.
The loss of control over the final design of the re-aligned road, and the catastrophic impact the project would have on the library character, functionality and operations forever.
The destruction of the wetlands and green space on the library’s property with the removal of nearly 300 trees to accommodate the road through the property.
The logistical concerns with a redesigned parking lot, given the elevation problems and the water tower impediment, and the ultimate impairment of the library’s future options for expansion.
The unsafe and negative experience created for library patrons (many of whom are children and seniors) by moving the entrance further from the building while moving a major road closer to the building.
The concern that the pending underpass project at Northwest Highway and CN railroad tracks may not come to fruition for decades, and if and when it does, the significant increase in traffic that will result from a realigned Lake Zurich Road.