PHOENIXVILLE -- The Borough Planning Commission Thursday evening sent Phoenixville Public Library officials back to do more research before ruling on the Library's expansion proposal.
The central subjects: traffic and law.
Commissioners asked for traffic and parking studies of the potential impact of closing Second Avenue to accommodate the project "up front," as Fr. James Evans said, "earlier in the process than would usually be required," as Commission chair Deb Johnson put it.
"The question would be how much this impacts the grid," said Borough Planner Ray Ott. "How much would it impact safety? I'm not a traffic engineer. I can't answer those questions."
Martynick asked also that Carnevale look at "reverse angled parking" as a traffic-calming device. "They do it in Pottstown," he said. Marcia Eldred was concerned about the lack of space provided for school bus parking.
"No one is against the Library's expansion," Martynick continued. He reflected on substantial increases in the Library's collection circulation and patron visits over the last two decades, statistics presented to the Commission by Foundation Board member Adam Deveney and architect Tom Carnevale.
"The numbers are glaring," Martynick said. "But we need to keep our heartstrings in check. A quarter of the land [under discussion] you don't have now. If the Borough vacates [Second Avenue], half of it would go to [adjoining property owners] the Library and half to the Park." He said he was not certain that the Reeves Park deed would permit construction on Park property.
"The Borough has the right to vacate the street," said Commission solicitor Kim Venzie. "I don't know if deed restrictions would apply."
James Evans asked if the School District would consider "a taking" of the street. Carnevale was clear: "The Library does not even want to associate itself with any exercise of eminent domain."
Commissioners asked Library Foundation attorney Alan Novak to work with Venzie on the status of the Foundation as applicant. They sought clarification of the relationships among the Foundation, the Library Board and Phoenixville Area School District and its Board.
School Board member Josh Gould said that "the School Board owns the property," and would provide a letter stating its support for the project. "Tell us what you need," he said, "and we'll provide it."
Novak agreed. "The Library Board runs it. The legal owner is the School District," he said. "The applicants are here to present a sketch plan. To the degree that we need to supplement that with whatever you determine necessary" on the way to formal submission of a preliminary plan, "we will," he said.