Library expansion approved

City Council gives unanimous 'yes' to $11.4 million project

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— Now the only question is when.

The Steamboat Springs City Council gave final approval to the expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library on Tuesday night, giving a unanimous "yes" to a voter-approved, $11.4 million project that will more than triple the size of the current library at Lincoln Avenue and 13th Street. The 23,400-square-foot expansion will feature vastly improved children and teen libraries, an outdoor reading deck overlooking the Yampa River, a coffee shop, more meeting rooms and lounge areas, and significantly increased floor space that will allow for larger selections.

"This will truly be a landmark for the community," council President Pro-tem Steve Ivancie said. "I think the architecture is innovative and exciting, and I look forward to seeing it built."

Council member Ken Brenner also praised the work of Minneapolis-based architectural firm Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, whose staff planned the expansion along with Steamboat resident Scott Myller of West Elevation Architects.

Plans for the expansion's north side, facing Lincoln Avenue, feature what Ivancie called a "campus-style" design of brick and stone, with a public plaza and lawns leading to a set-back entrance. The south side of the expansion, facing the river, is built in a sweeping curve dominated by large windows and the upper-story reading deck.

The expansion will boost the library from about 9,500 square feet to 32,900 square feet in size. The majority of the current library will be renovated into a large community room.

When the expansion's 16- to 18-month construction process will begin is uncertain.

Library Director Chris Painter did not say Tuesday night whether construction of the library will wait for completion of the new Steamboat Springs Community Center.

"We don't have the answer to that question," Painter told the council. "Our project is still on schedule to break ground in July, but I don't know if we will move forward in July or not : it's a sensitive issue."

According to an agreement city officials made with the East Routt Library District in October 2005, the city's new community center must be built before the current Steamboat Springs Community Center, adjacent to the library, can be torn down to allow for the library expansion.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord has said the new community center, which the council approved in December, will not be completed until fall at the earliest.

But a May 2006 contract between city officials and the library district allows the district to close on its $500,000 purchase of the Community Center site, and begin construction, as soon as July 1. Users of the Community Center have vocally opposed any lapse between buildings.

Tuesday night, council member Towny Anderson said the city's new Community Center could have been incorporated into the library expansion.

"What I most lament is a squandered opportunity," Anderson said. "I think we moved to facilitate the library's plans, rather than collaborate for the benefit of everybody."

Before voting in favor of the expansion, Anderson suggested an amendment requiring the library to pay the city as compensation for about 20 parking spaces the library will not provide, despite the size of the expanded building. The council's approval of the expansion allowed for the reduced number of spaces as a variance to city building codes.

Council member Paul Strong, who made the motion to approve the expansion, would not accept Anderson's amendment.

"I think this is a great project," Strong said.

Also Tuesday, the council enacted an "emergency moratorium" placing a ban on new vacation home rental permits for up to 90 days, while the council works to revise the ordinance regulating such permits.

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