Frederick County and city officials were unable Wednesday to reach agreement about the site for a library branch on the west side of the city.
Two potential locations are under consideration for the new library branch.
One is at 800 Oak St., along Himes Avenue. It’s a 209,000-square-foot facility the county purchased last year after leasing it for a mass COVID-19 vaccination site. It would be used for more than just the library.
County officials have said they hope to use the Himes Avenue facility to accelerate large projects, including constructing a library branch by 2025.
City aldermen, though, have expressed reservations about changing the zoning to allow a library at that site.
“I will tell you it is unique for us to have people not embrace the library and the site that has been presented,” County Executive Jan Gardner, D, said during the meeting.
The second location is a 3.24-acre site owned by the city of Frederick along Contender Way, near Butterfly Ridge Elementary School.
“Right now, there’s only one appropriately sized parcel,” Frederick County Public Libraries Director James Kelly said during the meeting. “And that’s Himes Avenue.”
On Wednesday, Gardner and five members of the Frederick County Council met with Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor and the Frederick Board of Aldermen at Winchester Hall to discuss plans for the library branch.
It will ultimately be the county’s decision to determine where to build the library, O’Connor said.
Kelly said Frederick County Public Libraries is looking for 4 to 5 acres to fit the library and include space for parking.
Gardner included budget money to begin designing a library branch at the Himes Avenue location. She said the project could be completed within three years.
The city Board of Aldermen would need to approve rezoning the Himes Avenue property to allow a library branch there.
A library along Contender Way would be easier for children to get to from home or from school than Himes Avenue, Alderman Ben MacShane, D, said during the meeting.
“I know that the libraries certainly welcome children, but they’re not day care providers,” Gardner said. “Children under 8 are actually not allowed to be there unattended by an adult.”
Residents who spoke during the meeting aligned with the city. They said they hoped the new branch could include space for a community center or a place where children could access educational and extracurricular programs.
Frederick resident Jazmin Di Cola, a Democratic candidate for County Council, said during the meeting that west side residents and their children would have a difficult time accessing the Himes Avenue site.
Frederick resident Yewande Oladeinde said the county should listen more to city residents about the role of the library in the community.
“This community is very different from others that currently have a library,” Oladeinde said. “The community is cultural, and the library for the community is not just the library. It’s really a cultural space where you can go and you can congregate and you can share your cultural diversity and also engage with the public. And I think what that means is that you cannot use the same yardstick that you would use for other libraries.”
West side residents said during a town hall meeting with county officials in May that they want the new library within walking distance of schools and homes, so children can easily access it.
But residents did not come to a consensus that night about where they wanted the branch built, Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said Tuesday.
The city’s downtown library branch is not convenient for those on the west side, residents have said. The area is home to Spanish-speaking and low-income communities that have felt excluded from county government processes, including where their library branch will end up.
A branch at the Contender Way site could take more than six years to complete and would require significantly more work, such as water and sewer lines and a plan for stormwater management.
Moreover, Gardner said, the Himes Avenue site is on 26 acres of county land and would include substantial on-site parking, while the Contender Way site would not have enough space for parking.
Hundreds more homes are within a half-mile of the Himes Avenue site than the Contender Way option, Gardner said during the town hall meeting in May.
The Contender Way site is within a quarter-mile of Hillcrest Elementary and Butterfly Ridge Elementary, while the Himes Avenue site is more than a half mile from each.
County officials have said a free bus service would bring residents to the Himes Avenue location, in addition to existing transit services.
“It feels like Christmas. We’ve never had an opportunity where two groups are trying to offer multiple plots of land, ever, in the history of Frederick County,” Kelly said during the meeting.