Monday, July 7, 2008

Planning Commission to hear Library expansion plans on July 10 at 7 p.m.

On Thursday, July 10, 2008, at 7 p.m., the Phoenixville Public Library will present plans to the Planning Commission regarding a controversial addition to the building.

The plan proposes to close Second Avenue by building an addition from the existing building directly onto the street and south to the sidewalk of Reeves Park turning Second Avenue into a one-way street from B street west. Traffic would leave Second Avenue via Park Alley to Grover Street alley (behind the homes on Second) or turn right on to one-way First Avenue, turn left on B Street, and another left on to Washington Avenue in order to reach Main Street. Or, the borough could make Park Alley one-way north to Washington Avenue. In that event, the entire of Park Alley would have to be rebuilt to withstand the impact. Major traffic pattern change will occur on each of the aforementioned streets which will disrupt entire neighborhoods.

Phoenixville Library currently has over 200,000 visits annually by members of the public. When the library was built, the building served the needs of the community at a time when local vehicles still included horse drawn carriages. I seriously doubt that Andrew Carnagie envisioned 200,000 visitors and the impact they would have on a neighborhood in the heart of our community. During one meeting, it was mentioned that due to the increase in new homes being built in this area, the as-yet-to-be-built addition to the library would be obsolete in 10 years.

Due to it's success, the library has simply outgrown the building and the surrounding area's ability to accomodate it.

Personally, my family and I, and our neighbors, certainly have enjoyed the close proximity of the library, but over the years we have endured the lack of parking as well as inconveniences during the building of the addition, along with the constant, sometimes maddening drone of the HVAC system.

We have been uncomplaining, good neighbors to the library, and, as I’ve stated in public meetings and private conversations with library board members, I would much rather be working for the library than against this particular plan.

That being said, many issues with the plan were presented to the library board during the two meetings with the neighbors and the public at-large which have never been resolved, answered, and perhaps have been summarily dismissed. I have also had several private conversations with board members to no avail. I will attempt to address some of the issues and concerns in this post.

Second Avenue is the primary choice for library visitors to park. Often we are left without parking spaces near our homes, and non-handicapped patrons flagrantly violate the law by parking in the two available handicapped parking spaces. Impatient drivers pull north into one-way south Park Alley and back out to oncoming traffic on Second Avenue to secure a choice parking space. I’ve seen fender-benders and near misses. This every day maneuver is extremely dangerous. We live with this every single day.

Parking is a serious problem which is not addressed in the current plan. Any developer planning to build in the Borough of Phoenixville must provide parking. A few diagonal spaces in front of the proposed building won't even replace those which already exist by the Library. Second Avenue is destined to become the primary parking lot for the library while the rest of the parking problem will be pushed into the surrounding neighborhoods of east Second Avenue, Main Street, Third and First Avenues.

The design of the building shows arched windows on the front. The back, unless the plan has changed, is a solid wall. Phoenixville’s own Berlin Wall will cover the former Byrne mansion almost completely to the west, and completely obliterate the western view and line of sight, blocking the sunsets as well as the air flow.

The library is backed by Park Alley. As was mentioned at the first meeting, the alley is not wide enough to accommodate fire vehicles. At the second meeting, we were finally informed that the library would need to have a widowed neighbor’s small side yard condemned by eminent domain in order to widen the alley for emergency traffic. If the amount requested is condemned, traffic will reach within feet of the home. The addition of much more traffic so close to the foundation begs the question as to whether the foundation could withstand such an impact.

To my knowledge, the borough has never sold an ordained street. Can a borough street be sold? Who would appraise the value of this property? Who would pay for the appraisal?

What is under the street at the intersection of Second Avenue and Main Streets? Storm drains. Water and sewer lines. Gas service. How can a building this size be built on a borough owned street with underground utilities? Can storm drains be dug up and redirected? What streets or private property would have to be excavated to vacate the the existing storm drains and utility lines? Who would pay for the engineering to relocate the storm drains and the utilities? Who would pay to reconstruct everything?

This plan is not feasible and does not serve the public. Many alternatives have been suggested but to date they apparently have made no impact.

Logic dictates the Phoenixville Library needs either a satellite branch in another location or a completely new campus.

Please make plans to attend the Planning Commission Meeting on Thursday, July 10th at 7 p.m.

Link to other threads on this subject:


Anonymous said...

200,000 is the current number of visits. I would like to know what they anticipate the number of patrons to be when the library add programs to make use all that new space. I imagine that Second Avenue will be as hard to cross as Starr Street. And where will all those additional vehicles park? It is already difficult.

Mary Anne said...

Karen, I'll be there Thursday as should everyone who cares about this lovely town we call home.

Genevieve Wilk said...

I just checked The Borough Code of Pennsylvania Chapter 91, Article XX regarding Sanitary Sewers. It states that "it shall be unlawful for any person to erect any building or make any improvement, within the righ-of-way of any sewer laid out"...Now, if someone can show that there are sewer lines under that part of Second Avenue, it might prevent them from building the extension on top of the street. I'm not a lawyer, so I am not sure about this, but I think Phoenixville Borough is required to follow the PA Borough Code in certain matters like this.

Karen said...

Anonymous 6:02 p.m., our question, too.

Between the special programs for children during the day, and the after rush hour programs for adults along with the normal pattern of visits, this area is virtually gridlocked at any time of the day or evening.

Commonsense would dictate the need for a new facility, especially when the library's own studies have shown that the new addition would become obsolete in a short number of years.

It's a bad situation with the potential for growing much, much worse.

Karen said...

Thanks, Mary Anne.

Let's chat beforehand.

Karen said...

Genevieve, great find!

We are fortunate to have a Planning Commission which is thorough in it's fact-finding especially when presented with high-profile and controversial situations.

Recently, they rendered an appropriate decision on the HUD application for housing on Starr Street.

As we go through this process, information such as what you've presented may be valuable to the Commission.

Keep up the great work!

Thanks for the info.

Ed Jones said...

And don't forget that in building across 2nd Avenue there will be about 10 parking spaces removed. This will mean more people parking in front of homes on Main Street and 2nd Avenue.

Perhaps the library has asked the Borough to pave a lot in Reeves Park for parking?

Karen said...

Mr. Jones, all kidding aside, the park is preserved from any encroachment by the library due to a deed put in place by the Reeves family.

Thankfully, they had foresight.

Anonymous said...

Why not bring a satellite branch of the library to the north side of town. Except for Franklin Commons, it seems to have been mostly forgotten in the revitalization effort...

Anonymous said...

Upper Providence is planning a large library in the near future. how large does the Phoenixville Library have to be, in all reality?

Anonymous said...

I'm in favor of the library staying right where it is. I walk there at least 3 times a week with my kids. I would not want to drive in my car and consume more gas just to get to some expansion somewhere else. Yes, lets pave another parking lot on some open land somewhere and make the building a empty hole because I'm sure that is what Carnegie would want right?

Genevieve said...

Karen, In case anyone would like to reference The Borough Code of Pennsylvania, you can get free access to it through the PA General Assembly website (normally you would need to pay a subscription for access, but I guess our tax dollars pay for it) Here's the link:

From the homepage
-click on Purdon's PA Statues under "Law Information"
-then Title 53 P.S.
-Part VI Boroughs
-Chapter 91 The Borough Code
-Article XX Sanitary Sewers
-(A) Laying Out...
- Section 47012
(just keep clicking on the plus signs next to each section to open them)
Section 47012 contains the information I posted above regarding the sanitary sewers. Hope this might be useful.

Karen said...

Thank you, Genevieve, for that information.

It may be helpful to have a few copies for the Planning Commission members tonight.

Thanks, again!

Anonymous said...

You folks should NOT hang your hat on the fact that there are likely Borough utility lines under the street. Considering this is a multi million dollar project I would venture a guess of only a hundred thousand or so would pay to move them to run through a part of Reeves Park instead. I doubt there is a deed restriction that prevents that from happening, assuming it doesn't already.

Anonymous said...

From what I read no one is hanging their hat on any one thing. People are just looking at all the problems involved in this. There are many reasons why this project is very stupid, and the stuff under the street is just one of them. Traffic and parking and safety issues are other major considerations.

Anonymous said...

It is my belief that parking and safety problems will be relieved. The expansion is set to take over approximately 8 parking spaces on Second Avenue. If you look at the expansion plans that are made available on this blog by Karen, you will see that an additional 10 spaces are added. This means 2 additional spaces are created. It will also make it safer for children playing in the park because cars will not be speeding down Second Avenue. The chances of a child running out into the street and being hit by a careless, speeding driver will be greatly diminished. Look at the expansion as far as it will benefit the greater good of the community, not how it will benefit yourselves individually. We live in a terrific up and coming town and this idea will only further improve upon it.

Anonymous said...

I am just amazed at the short-sightedness and just plain small thinking that went into this plan.

This is clearly a project that needs some outside professional assistance.

Having experinced a quality suburban library like Exton's it is hard to believe that the building is wagging the dog here.

It has outlived its intended purpose. It is the 21st century. Let us keep it and let it function in some fashion more in keeping with its design. This is like putting my grandmother in a tank top. How sad.

What would be great for the thousands that need to walk to the library it to put in downtown in the steel site. Something will eventually happen with that ground, why not this.

How about a book & a ballgame!

Anonymous said...

I don't see how it could be safer for the children in the park, because the traffic is not going to disappear. It will only be routed to another street. And there will be even more of it because of the increased programs at the expanded library. Third Avenue is the most likely place for the through traffic to go. It is also closer to the playground than Second. How safe will that be for the children trying to cross Third Avenue to get to the playground?

PDM said...

The library is an integral part of the community, and it is a valuable asset for the entire community. It is clear from a trip to the library that more space is needed. It is also clear that the current plot is small indeed. The way I see it, the library is trying to expand its (positive) presence in the community the best way it can with the limited space it has. I can understand why it wouldn't want to split up the collection to a sattellite campus - it would please the neighbors of the library, but it would be an inconvenience for everyone else.

I don't like it either that they are planning to close off Second Ave., but the library is a great part of the community, and the positive impacts of this project far outweigh the inconveniences expressed here on this blog.

Ed Naratil said...

While I agree with the editorial in today's Phoenix that a library is a big part of a community, the community must come first!

The plans for closing 2nd Avenue will have a greater impact on the citizens of Phoenixville than not having a larger library.

I'm sure you realize that 2nd Avenue carries a lot of traffic from Nutt Road to Starr street. Putting this traffic on 3rd Avenue where the Catholic School is will be a nightmare. Children are marched across the street a number of times daily to reach their play area and he street does not appear to be as wide as 2nd Ave.

Since acquiring properties to the north of the library for expansion does not seem to even be considered, how about building up? The sky's the limit I once heard someone say.

And parallel parking. OK so we only lose 3 feet or so of Main Street. How many additional spaces are obtained? Enough to make up for the loss of parking on 2nd Avenue?

And I sure hope a resident doesn't need an ambulance from West End in a hurry. A straight shot down 2nd Ave from Nutt will get there in a hurry. Main Street to Starr and up to 2nd Ave (or any other route) may be the difference between life and death.

Anonymous said...

A guy at the planning meeting said he didn't like anyone calling the blank three story back wall on the addition the Berlin Wall.

Live behind it. It will feel like the Berlin Wall. But that was only 12 feet high.

The view to the residents on 2nd will be more like the Great Wall of China which is 35 to 40 foot high.

andthetruthshallsetyoufree said...

I have heard that the Firhouse is for sale on the north side, why not move the whole library there? Already has it's own off street parking?

Anonymous said...

At the meeting, it was stated by the library people that there are 200,000 visits per year. Does anyone know how they arrived at that figure? Was it a guess, perhaps a self-serving one? Pad the numbers so the situation seems even more desperate then it really is?

That comes out to one visitor a minute for every minute the library is open every day for one full year. A pretty convenient number I'd say.

It all goes back to the research that was put into this proposed building. Which in my opinion was nonexistent.

And if they have a traffic study done, who is going to pay for it?

genevieve said...

Karen, I took a look at the library plan on the Carnevale Eustis website. I was very surprised to see that they actually have the edge of that building right up against the park itself. I was under the impression that they could only go up to the sidewalk, not on top of it. How is this going to impact the residents with mobility issues? It appears the only way they will be able to get to the corner of Second and Main is to walk up the steps into the park and around the building. Not a big deal for most folks, but a very big issue for the disabled and elderly. Are they going to be building ADA ramps up and down in the park? it wasn't shown on the drawing.
A previous poster had it right, this is a case of a building wagging the dog.

Anonymous said...

For the parking issues... maybe they can build a parking garage. :-)

I like the idea of putting it on the North Side, like the firehouse suggestion. It's only a short trip over the shiny new bridge from downtown, there's a parking lot, and most of the new houses built in the borough are on the North Side.

Anonymous said...

Nobody seemed to care when they demolished all of those nice homes on Griffen Street in favor of big business.
So a "not-for-profit" library has little or no say in its expansion.

Gee big business over the literacy of our towns children and its adults....Sounds like typical phoenixville.

How people change when its in their own backyard.

Anonymous said...

The "big business" referred to by a previous poster is a community's hospital. This seems to me to not be a relevant comparison at all with a library. Having a hospital and emergency room as close as possible is probably a big reason it remained in its current location. Sometimes seconds count in a medical emergency.
I've never heard anyone say "I need a book, STAT!!"

Anonymous said...

Here is an example of what the neighbors of the hospital are still dealing with (comes straight out of the today's Phoenix). I doubt Ms. Johns will post this comment. She doesn't like it when people contradict her opinion, especially if her NIMBYism is pointed out.

"Speaking for neighbors of Phoenixville Hospital, John "Bud" Horenci lodged renewed and pointed complaints about "excessive noise" and "overly bright and poorly shielded lights" on the Phoenixville Hospital construction site.

He said that irregular meetings with Hospital officials had proved "largely fruitless," that full project plans were missing from Borough offices, that Borough police were not sufficiently familiar with code provisions, and that Borough staff had provided "illogical" code interpretations. "Either enforce your ordinances or throw them out and let there be anarchy," Horenci concluded."

Anonymous said...

I would like someone to explain to me how you can attribute noise from a construction site, and problems with the police and borough staff, to Karen Johns' opinion on the library expansion. Doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 10:16,

Karen lobbied hard for the hospital expansion at the expense of that neighborhood. The expansion wasn't necessary for the emergency room to continue operating, BUT it is good for the community.

The library expansion is also good for the community. Unfortunately the folks in that neighborhood aren't willing to deal with construction noise, dust, etc. that the hospital neighborhood folks are dealing with. This is classic NIMBYism. Additionally, the library expansion is a much smaller project.

Karen said...

Anonymous 1:45 p.m., I think it's time I jump in here on your exchange in order to correct some points you've made.

"Karen lobbied hard for the hospital expansion at the expense of that neighborhood. The expansion wasn't necessary for the emergency room to continue operating, BUT it is good for the community."

Yes, I lobbied hard. Actually, I was totally committed and I devoted countless hours to saving the hospital. The committee we formed was tireless and we eventually presented Council and the hospital with over 4,000 signatures of support for the expansion of the facility.

I would like to remind you, Anonymous, that the hospital was receving offers to relocate to another township and was considering leaving Phoenixville. As a community (including some residents in the affected neighborhood), we successfully banded together to insure the future of the hospital in Phoenixville.

For the scope of the work please read this from the hospital website:

"Phoenixville is undergoing a $90 million expansion including a tower featuring a new ER and ICU, a new parking garage, and other areas to improve medical care in our community."

"The library expansion is also good for the community. Unfortunately the folks in that neighborhood aren't willing to deal with construction noise, dust, etc. that the hospital neighborhood folks are dealing with. This is classic NIMBYism. Additionally, the library expansion is a much smaller project."

While YOUR mention of the construction impact of the proposed library expansion will certainly be a consideration, we haven't discussed it or used the impact as a reason to oppose this concept plan.

If you read through this blog, Anonymous, you will find several threads with many different reasons why this proposal is not the correct one.

Many people have made an effort to post their legitimate concerns which are located on this blog and available for anyone to read.

Please refer to these items when stating why the neighbors are in opposition.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. The only difference between the hospital project and the library project is the name. They both have or soon will destroy lovely neighborhoods, generate ill conceived traffic pattern changes, generate noise dirt and view changes, and disrupt street grid patterns for ill advised reasons. Both have or will threaten to move out of town if it isn't permitted, and on and on. The biggest difference is the hospital neigbors aren't interfereing in your quality of life issues, spreading falsehoods about your motivation, or rallying the town under false pretense. You Karen, should be ashamed for displaying such a double standard. And no matter how you defend that double standard, it just doesn't flush.

Karen said...

The library has not threatened to leave town.

I suspect, Anonymous 11:46 a.m., by the tone and content of your post that you have personal issues with me, rather than a pro or con stance on the library proposal.

I invite you to contact me directly at or via telephone to discuss your true concerns.

Thank you.