Public hearing brings full house to DeKalb City Council

Kelly Bauer

A public hearing on the proposed vacation of a portion of North Third Street drew a full house to Monday’s City Council Meeting.

Members of the community were allowed to speak about the proposal, which supporters said was necessary for an expansion for the DeKalb Public Library. The majority of those who spoke expressed support for the proposal, though some gave their support on the condition that the library’s expansion not lead to an increase in taxes. Clark Neher, President of the Board of Trustees for the DeKalb Public Library, said the acquisition of land necessary for the expansion would not raise taxes. The library plans to use surplus TIF money the city council already said it could have to purchase the land.

Steve Irving, who currently owns the land that the library seeks to acquire, is offering the land to the library at close to the cost it took him to acquire it, Irving and Neher said.

“Five years ago, we wanted to buy land to expand,” Neher said. “We looked throughout DeKalb and couldn’t find a place. [This plan] would allow us to expand and still use the present library, which everyone loves.”

Neher said the board looked into plans for building a branch of the library in a different area, but decided to go with the expansion proposal that necessitates the vacation of a portion of Third Street.

Eric Penney, a Nagle Hartay architect who worked on creating a basic foot plan of the expanded library, said the library currently lacks utilities he has seen in other 21st century libraries, like a programming room, genealogy room and study hall.

However, resident Lynn Fazekas said the proposed size of the expansion was unnecessarily large because it was created several years ago, and the planners thought a growing population would need a larger library.

“The foot plan of this expansion can be much smaller,” Fazekas said. “At this point, we are depopulating. If we reduce the footprint of this plan, which was conceived several years ago, there would be no need to vacate parts of Third Street.”

A suggestion to have the expanded building go over N. Third Street, with a 10 to 12″ clearance so automobiles could still travel underneath the library, was suggested by 5th Ward Alderman Ron Naylor. However, Penney said this would create problems with accessibility and increase cost, as two elevators would need to be built in the separate sections of the building.

After the hearing ended, two ordinances were passed: one that authorized the mayor to sign an intergovernmental development agreement with the library, and another that rezoned the DeKalb Public Library property from a residential conservation district and light commercial to a planned development commercial area. The ordinances were passed unanimously.

“I don’t see a reason why we can’t vacate a portion of Third,” said 7th Ward Alderwoman Monica O’Leary.