By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Building Committee of the Belleville Area District Library met for almost three hours Dec. 30 to work on details for a proposed new building on the Department of Natural Resources/Spencer family property just north of the Belleville Bridge.
“We’re going to be rocking and rolling,” said architect Dan Whisler, referring to the work that needs to be done before the April 8 meeting when the district library board needs to have the proposed cost so it can approve ballot language for the August election.
Whisler had presented design options A, B, and C to the library board at the regular Dec. 10 meeting and then had refined that into a C1 option that the committee mostly approved at its Dec. 30 meeting. More tweaking is needed.
He said the point of the Dec. 30 meeting was to nominate a preferred design direction, which is C1.
He will be bringing C1 to the next library board meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 14 for approval.
Whisler said the next steps include:
• Talking the DNR through the shoreline concept for the fisher folk. He plans to contact the DNR to set up an hour-long conference call to get their input on the design. He plans to include committee members, attorney John Day, and others in the upcoming phone call;
• Then, he wants to try to sit down with Arthur Mullen, director of planning and economic development for Van Buren Township, to start a conversation about parking requirements, detention pond fencing, and other things.
• Then, he wants to sit down with Wayne County to talk about curb cuts and other items; and
• Of course, he needs more meetings with the Building Committee and it set a meeting for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 4 and another tentative meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23.
Meanwhile, Deputy Library Director Mary Jo Suchy said she will be meeting informally with library staff to explain what is planned so far and to get input.
“I want to make sure the staff is listened to…” Whisler said.
“The last two weeks in February we’re cranking on developing a budget,” Whisler said.
He said before he approaches the VBT Downtown Development Authority again, probably in March, he will need to get the budget developed. He said the DDA is interested in helping.
“But, they’ll want to know how much …” he said, adding he plans to have a wish list for things the library can’t fund, breaking out “must-do” expenses from “might-do” items.
Whisler also said he is being held up in site design because the survey of the DNR/Spencer property has yet to be finalized by Spicer Group Engineers.
“I don’t know why the boundary information is taking so long … I need it,” he told the committee, noting he thought they gave Spicer the information.
He said he gave them drawings from the Wayne County Road Commission from two years ago that showed the right of way.
Spicer was granted the not-to-exceed $10,350 contract for the site survey the first week in November and said it could do the work in four to five weeks.
Some of the details on Spicer’s partial survey were questioned, but it is needed, Whisler said, “As long as they certify it with the seal and certify it is accurate.”
The committee went over many details during the long meeting, including:
• The lake elevation. Whisler said he had the elevation at 651.5’ above sea level and Mullen said it’s just 650.8’. “With drought the lake might drop below that and some of these spot elevations (from the Spicer documents) might be below Arthur Mullen’s water line,” Whisler said, adding VBT owns the shoreline up to 655’ above sea level;
• The floodplain. The Spicer preliminary survey notes the property primarily lies within Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Zone X, the moderate and minimal flood risk, and notes that a small portion of the site is in Zone AE, high-risk, with a floodplain elevation of 653’. Whisler said, “Our property boundary is halfway up that bank and the contour VBT owns to is 655’.” He said the floodplain is in the area VBT owns so he doesn’t think it affects the library. (The information on VBT Shoreline Permits defines the township property as below the 655’ contour line or brow of the hill.);
• The design of the fishing pier. Whisler said two decades ago the DNR proposed to the township fishing piers that went out into the lake on pilings into the lake bottom. Now, the DNR wants one-third of the 1,000 feet of lakeshore for fishing access. At first, Whisler considered a long pier along the shoreline, but now he is working on several individual fishing areas. He said he would love to have fishing along the causeway to the bridge;
• The storm sewer. Whisler said they have found a 48” diameter storm sewer and a 24” storm sewer both connecting to a 24” pipe where the water is coming out. “We thought it was odd. Large into small. Kind of a surprise. Why would they do that?” he asked. When he was asked if the county did that, he replied, “I assume so when the bridge work was done and the road widened… It’s higher than the lake. We have to work with that.” Whisler also said the Spencer in-ground pool was kind of missed by the survey done by Spicer. He said he hopes to have the completed survey by Spicer in a week or two, but he has no definite date;
• Detention pond. Whisler described the planned detention pond near Belleville Road and the Bridge as “just a shallow depression that fills up with water from a heavy rain, holds the water, and then slowly discharges it.” When committee member John Juriga asked if it needs a fence around it, Whisler said it doesn’t and he will work with VBT on that, emphasizing he doesn’t think it needs a fence;
• Pedestrian crossing. Whisler discussed the possibility of a pedestrian crossing across Belleville Road by the satellite parking lot on the Spencer property. “We can get funding from the DDA if everyone thinks that’s a good idea,” he said, adding if people are coming to the library from the north, they won’t want to walk all the way to the Quirk Road traffic signal to cross. He said maybe the pedestrian crossing could be closer to Harmony Lane;
• Parking spaces. Whisler is working with landscape architect Kyle Verseman of SmithGroup JJR on the plans. Whisler and Verseman came up with 151 parking spaces (10 set aside for the fisher folk) and the township ordinance requires 230 parking spaces, which Whisler called “crazy.” He said they will have to sit down with the township and work this through;
• Toxic waste? Barbara Miller asked from the audience if they were going to look for toxic waste on the property and Whisler said they had soil borings done that didn’t show toxic waste and didn’t find any signs of fill. Juriga said the Stabnaus sold the property to the DNR 30 years ago and after that Wayne County dumped a lot of concrete on the site. He was told that was clean concrete along the shoreline for riprap. Whisler said, “We didn’t bother to do anything on the Spencer lot. No cause for concern. All virgin soil, mostly clay…” Whisler said if there was any indication of a problem they would do studies, Miller said she and other longtime residents have seen dumping of building materials on that site;
• Computers. There is a total of 72 computers planned for public use, up from the present 25 in the current library;
• Public art. Miller asked at what point do library supporters go out to the big corporations to get grants for public art? Whisler told of other libraries that got grants for art. He said it will be nine months to a year from the vote to the building specifications done for a contractor and they could be thinking about art then. Miller said she was talking about art as a part of the building design, although committee chairman Joy Cichewicz said, “That’s integrated art … you can always add.” Miller said she serves on the Wayne County Art Institute Authority with Hubert Massey who does a lot of public art. “He likes to talk to the community … That should happen sometime early on … The community should have the opportunity to get involved,” Miller said. “The big challenge is who’s going to pay for it,” Whisler said. “Some put 1% aside for art … using public money … but you don’t want the public to be critical”;
• Local History room. Whisler said about 400 square feet, about half the size of the program room at the current library, is being set aside for Local History in the new building. “That’s really sad,” said Ginger Bruder from the audience. “It’s not very much space to hold our past in.” Bruder said the Local History room should have its own computer for a genealogist to work on in there. Whisler said if they see the need to add space to that room, they can do it; and
• Entrance on the lake? The committee talked a lot about having the front door facing Belleville Road and another entrance on a terrace in the back, where people could come in to get coffee or snacks in the café and then go out and sit on the steps and soak up the sun. “If we had a terrace on the children’s area, we would have to have them fenced in – in a nice way,” Whisler said. Committee chairwoman Cichewicz said they wouldn’t be able to control materials going in and out with two doors. Whisler said they could talk to the DDA about enhancing this into more of a lake walk and this wouldn’t have to be solved prior to the bond issue. Whisler said there is a separate access for bathrooms for the fisher folk. “It’s almost better not to have a door (on the lake) than making people angry because there’s a door that they can’t come in,” Whisler said.
The building designed for Option C1 has a 26,000-square-foot footprint and 50,000 square feet of total area on two floors.
Friends of the Library Annual Meeting
At 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25, the Friends of the Library will hold their annual meeting and architect Whisler will present the latest sketches, site plans, and other plans for the new library. The public is invited. Refreshments will be served.
By Rosemary K. Otzman