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Opposition to moving library increases
By PHILIP PALERMO
Local business leaders and the Federal Way City Council have come out against a proposal to relocate the 320th branch library to a site near the new transit center.
In a unanimous vote April 18, council members decided not to support the King County Library System's proposed move further into the city's downtown core.
The vote came amid public support for keeping the 320th branch where it is. Critics of the proposed move often pointed to the library system's advertisements for a 2004 capital improvement bond that stated the 320th branch would be renovated at its current site.
At a public meeting April 12, King County Library Systems Director Bill Ptacek said the library board's has been working under the presumption that improvements would be made at the existing site. The library system, he said, was looking into the possibility of relocation, citing language in the 2004 bond allowing for changes to their stated plans if the need warranted.
The relocation proposal faced strong opposition from residents, including a petition to keep the library at its current location with more than 800 signatures.
"This is a victory for the people in the community who have risen up and had their voices heard," Councilman Jim Ferrell said.
Business leaders are also making their voices heard, through a letter from the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.
The April 18, 2006 letter, addressed to library system board president Charlotte Spitzer, expresses support for keeping the library at South 320th Street.
"We would encourage the Board of Trustees to support the wishes of the community in which it serves to keep the library in its current location," the letter stated.
Susan Streifel, chairwoman of the chamber's board of directors, said the branch is in what's the called the frame of the city's downtown planning area. Having a library already in that area falls in line with the chamber's vision for downtown, she said.
"We didn't see any compelling need to take a different position than the people in the community," she said.
King County Library Systems Community Relations Manager Julie Wallace said the library board will likely discuss the 320th branch.
According to an agenda posted on the library system Web site, the 320th branch issue has been listed as an action item for the meeting.
Wallace said while she cannot speak for the board's intentions, it seems "highly unlikely" they will continue with a relocation near the transit center given the support for the current location.
Strong public support for the 320th branch, she said, is an indication of the value of libraries in the communities they serve.
"We always expect there to be public comment and we seek that input," she said. "Generally what it all points to is people care about their libraries and that's a great thing. It just tells us they care about it and how important their library is to them."
The city council originally supported a proposed move to the transit center on South 316th Street.
In an Oct. 17, 2005 letter to the library system, the council said a relocation into the city center fit in with Federal Way's effort to redevelop downtown with more mixed-use facilities, retail and educational institutions.
"For these reasons," the letter stated, "the prospect of having a new King County Library as a component of our redeveloping city center is very appealing to us as it would constitute one of the many pieces that we believe are necessary to achieve our city center vision."
Several council members said they hope talks between the city and the library system continue, perhaps leading to a new branch to serve the east side of the city.
Council member Jack Dovey said future meetings with the library system may include discussion about a new library in more conducive locations for east-side residents such as Military Road or South 288th Street.
"This opens it up for more discussions," Dovey said.
As discussions about the future of libraries in Federal Way continue, Council member Eric Faison said he hopes citizens don't walk away from the issue.
"I encourage you to stay involved," he said.
Faison's hope that residents stay involved as the city plans its downtown redevelopment was echoed by other council members.
"That's when we're going to get the best solution in the end," Council member Linda Kochmar said, "when we're all working together."
During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, Gayla Hardison said residents are getting more involved.
"The citizens are starting to watch," she said. "More and more people are paying attention."
Each council member expressed their appreciation for the activism of residents, commending their efforts in shaping the council's decision.
Councilman Dean McColgan, who as mayor this past year signed the Oct. 17 letter, said he supported the relocation until about a month ago.
"It made sense," he said, adding his sentiment changed in part thanks to the testimony and e-mails from residents.
"Perhaps a library downtown is still viable," he said. "This is just not the right place, the right time."
Staff writer Philip Palermo: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org