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County looks for new site for Southwest branch library

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Orange County commissioners have rejected a site for a new Southwest branch library in Carrboro and have re-committed to finding a better site.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to reject a contract to buy a 2.69 acre lot for a new library at 210 Hillsborough Road, next to Carrboro Elementary School, while also voting unanimously to resurrect the search for a new site with the help of the town of Carrboro and county residents.

Commissioners unanimously approved a purchase option on the site last October after asking county staff to shop around for land that might work for a new library.

The site at Hillsborough Road was chosen, but since last fall, the county discovered the land had obstacles with restrictions on how the land could be divided and easements on sewer and accessibility. 

Those obstacles could be overcome, but would cost the county significantly more, said County Manager Frank Clifton. 

 Seven people spoke against the Hillsborough Road site for the new library at Tuesday's meeting. The property is in a residential area and would cost the county too much, said Dorothy Taylor-Senter, who lives next door to the site.

"I believe that the benefits of choosing this site are far outweighed by the costs, not only to the neighorhood and my personal property, but to Orange County," she said.   "Placing the Southwest library in this location will bisect our neighborhood ... [it] will be a traffic nightmare for pepople who live in the neighborhood." 

The board agreed. Commissioner Earl McKee said he was opposed to the site from the beginning, and said as the county searches for a new one, it should also commit to resolving funding issues with the Chapel Hill's public library.

"I'd like that [as] we go forward, to make sure we have discussion to our commitment to Chapel Hill's town library as part of discussion as siting another Southwest branch library."

Commissioner Barry Jacobs emphasized the need to make the new search transparent and collaborative.

"It’s important to have a partnership with the Town of Carrboro ... and that we also involve the citizens, people are interested in this issue," he said. "Having this kind of an open and partnered a process will be very important." 

The board is focused on the long-term as it starts a new search process and is serious about finding a site that works, said Chairwoman Bernadette Pelissier.

"I think this is a good outcome; our refusal to accept this offer now ... opens the doors," she said. "People are coming forward and suggesting sites. I think the community knows we are serious about finding a good site for a library."

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About the blogger

Katelyn Ferral covers Orange County for The News & Observer and The Chapel Hill News.