Progress report: Committee seeks to raise funds for library expansion

Dave Lein, Editor

Courtesy photo

Shown is an architectural rendering of the 6,300 square-foot restoration and expansion project planned for the Elk Rapids District Library. According to the library’s Capital Campaign Committee, “it shows the glass-enclosed walkway that overlooks Elk River on one side and Grand Traverse Bay on the other side, and connects the historic Island House Library with a new larger building.”


ELK RAPIDS – Nearly five months after being approved, efforts to raise funds to pay for a $4.7 million, 6,300 square-foot expansion to the Elk Rapids District Library are underway.

According to a release last week from the project’s Capital Campaign Committee, “Generous donations totaling nearly $800,000 have been received” toward the library’s “Restoration and Expansion Plan.”

Following more than two years of presentations, discussion, public input and deliberation, the expansion proposal was approved 6-1 on Sept. 17 by the Elk Rapids Village Council.

One week earlier, Council held a lengthy public hearing on the issue that included presentations by architects from Hopkins Burns and Daniels & Zermack outlining the proposed expansion to the district library, along with highlights of a requested smaller addition.

The district library serves and is supported by the Village and Township of Elk Rapids, Milton Township and (through contracted services) a portion of Torch Lake Township.

In November 2017, the library board submitted its original 6,320 square-foot addition proposal to the village council. Instead of ruling on that request, council voted 4-3 to ask the board to submit another expansion proposal that would not exceed 4,000 square-feet.

Council’s approval was required for the proposal to move forward since the 1865 historic Island House property and structure was bequeathed to – and is owned by – the village and its residents.

The 2017 vote followed an extensive campaign by the library board, which agreed to raise all of estimated at $4.7 million to build the addition.

Throughout the process toward eventual approval, factions of residents both for and against the expansion emerged. Those in favor of expansion stated that additional space and resources were needed to effectively serve patrons of all ages. Those against were adamant that the current facility should not be altered, and currently met the needs of patrons in the seasonal community. They also advocated that other alternatives were not fully explored, and maintaining the expanded facility would result in added costs to village taxpayers.

In last September’s motion of approval, it was stipulated that “no funds dedicated toward the cost of the addition’s construction come from the village’s general fund.” It was also noted that despite council’s approval, the final expansion plan would have to meet other requirements.

At that time, then Village Zoning Administrator Steve Ravezzani (who has since retired) stated that those requirements would be addressed in the next step of the process.

“This proposed addition would follow the standard process,” Ravezzani said, “a special use permit would be required. As part of that permit we would review the site plan, environmental impact, stormwater assessment, etc.

“Ultimately it will be up to the planning commission to decide – either to approve it, approve it with conditions, or deny it following a public hearing,” he added.

As of this week, a date has not been set for the Planning Commission to hear a formal presentation of the library's expansion plan/site plan or subsequent public hearing, before rending its decision on a special use permit.

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