Residents and KCLS officials discuss location of new library

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SNOQUALMIE - A discussion of the location of what many Snoqualmie residents hope will be one of the central public features of the city revealed there are some different ideas about what and where the center of a community is.

Officials with the King County Library System (KCLS) held a public hearing in Snoqualmie on March 8 to present its list of possible sites for a new Snoqualmie library, and to get one last round of public input before the final decision goes before the KCLS Board of Directors later this month.

The three sites, all in the city's Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood, were gleaned from an initial list of possible sites put together last year after KCLS passed a $172-million bond that will fund upgrades or new facilities to all of its 43 branches. Snoqualmie was promised a new library, to be built in 2007, that could eventually grow to 10,000 square feet.

Two of the three sites are off Snoqualmie Parkway. One, called the "grocery store site," is located at the back of a lot on the corner of Snoqualmie Parkway and Center Boulevard that has been set aside for a future grocery store. The other is located across the street at the corner of Snoqualmie Parkway and Center Street. It is called the "Opus site" because the land is owned by land developer Opus Northwest. A third site, called the "day care site," is located on a lot set aside for retail at the intersection of Southeast Kinsey Street and Center Boulevard. There has been talk of locating a day care there in the future.

All of the sites were rated with a system that subjectively measured everything in three phases. The first phase rated site visibility, capacity and access. The second phase measured site centrality, infrastructure, cost and availability. The third measured the site's community preference, its availability to be leased or purchased and what kind of partnerships the library would be able to create with it.

The culminating scores revealed the grocery store site as a front runner. KCLS officials liked that the site was accessible, visible and ready to be developed. KCLS Director Bill Ptacek said the site lent itself well to the KCLS philosophy of making its libraries central gathering places for communities.

"We are trying to build a library that will be the heart of the community," he said.

Some city officials and residents at the meeting, however, took exception to naming the grocery store site as the favorite. One site the city had recommended in the past, at the community center site on Southeast Ridge Street, was not even among the final three considered. The city has been trying to build a community center at that site and some believed it would be ideal for a future library as well.

City of Snoqualmie Planning Director Nancy Tucker said the intersection of Southeast Ridge Street and Center Boulevard will be the future core of the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood retail area, a part of the city's comprehensive plan.

There was concern that the community center site may be too small to handle both that facility and a library, but there was still an appeal to consider the area as a whole, which is also where the day care site was located.

"I'd agree that the day care site is a lot better," said Snoqualmie City Administrator Bob Larson.

Others brought up an issue with parking at the grocery store site presented by sharing a parking lot with a high-traffic retail use that draws lots of cars. If and when the grocery store is built, some residents were concerned that most of the site's parking spaces would be filled. Also, anybody walking to the library from the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood would have to walk through a parking lot to get to the grocery store site.

Ptacek said the grocery store site is just two blocks from that retail core and should have enough parking. He also stressed that making the library accessible to everyone in the area is one the most important aspects of choosing a location.

"It [the library] is not just going to serve a two or three block area," Ptacek said. "It is going to serve a broader community."

Ptacek also said that the locations that were recommended came at the behest of months of evaluation by the Friends of the Snoqualmie Library and the city's library board.

Tony Yanez, president of Snoqualmie Library Board, said the board will recommend that the library go in at the grocery store site, but rather at the front of it then the back of it. The new location would put the building right at the corner of Snoqualmie Parkway and Center Boulevard.

That recommendation will be the final one for the KCLS board, which will meet on March 29. Ptacek said a final decision on a site could be made at that meeting.

"We want to move things along," he said.

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