CARRBORO – The Carrboro Board of Aldermen has sent three possible sites to Orange County to consider as a location for a Southern Branch of the Orange County Library, but it may have a fourth to offer if Orange County is willing to be flexible in its criteria.
The three sites include 1128 Hillsborough Road, which is property that is for sale by former Alderman Frances Shetley for $200,000. The property, which has been on the market about two years, is located next to the Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Two other properties are already owned by the Town of Carrboro, and if one of those sites is selected, the county would likely enter into a long-term lease for the property. One location is at 401 Fidelity St., a street that runs next to the Town Hall and the fire department. That site is located next to the cemetery, said Carrboro Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell, who served on a subcommittee to study possible sites.
The third possible location is 301 W. Main St., which is the Carrboro Town Hall. If that site is selected, a new library building would be squeezed in behind the Town Hall.
The Main Street and Fidelity Street sites would be convenient for people going to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market or shopping at the west end of the downtown area. The Hillsborough Street site would be convenient to people using the MLK park, but none of the three sites is as close to the main downtown area as some people had hoped.
On the flip side, those three locations may be more convenient for people who would have to drive to the library anyway.
The fourth option, however, is unknown at this time. Although the library will likely be located in Carrboro, it will be operated by the county and designed to serve everyone who lives in the southern part of the county, not just Carrboro residents.
Orange County has set out a list of criteria that it wants for its new library, including that it be a certain size, one story and that there be room for expansion in the future.
Carrboro is asking the county whether it might be flexible on the size and the number of stories because that could open up the possibility of other sites.
“We’ve directed the town manger to talk with the county manager,” Haven-O’Donnell said.
If the county would allow some flexibility, Carrboro could then consider proposals from a private developer who might have a plan to incorporate a library into its development or building.
One possibility that some have suggested is to put a library on the second story of a proposed CVS drug store that CVS wants to build at the corner of Weaver Street and North Greensboro Street. That would fulfill the criterion raised by some in Carrboro that the library be located in the central downtown area.
Now that Carrboro has sent the top three locations to the county, it’s a matter of waiting to hear from the county about whether it would be flexible on its criteria and willing to accept other proposals for sites that don’t fit the current criteria, Haven-O’Donnell said.
“We won’t know until they answer the flexibility question,” she said.
On Wednesday, Orange County Manger Frank Clifton said he hadn’t yet seen the official list of possible sites but had read about them in the newspaper.
County staff will begin studying the three sites to determine their potential, he said.
“We’ll take some time to look at the potential sites and see what the pluses and minuses are,” he said. “We’ll put it all together in some sort of format and take it to the County Commissioners and see what they want to do,” Clifton said.
Except for negotiations over the cost of buying or leasing the selected property, choosing the site for the library will be a public process, Clifton said.
Once a site is selected, it would likely take three to five years to design and construct the library, he said.