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Friday, April 20 News

Off the shelf: Westport Library expansion plan up for P&Z review

The long-planned expansion proposed for the Westport Library is scheduled for review Thursday by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

First Selectman Jim Marpe has asked for a report by the commission on the expansion project, which library officials have been planning for some time.

"This is an exciting and positive development for Westport and lots of people are looking forward to having a facility that relates more to the evolution of its mission," said Marpe, adding that requesting the report is a first step in the overall approval process. The P&Z meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in Town Hall.

He said the library has become "less and less about books and stacks, and more about learning and exploring."

The expansion would include an additional 12,654 square feet to the existing 43,916-square-foot building, as well as some changes to the surrounding landscaping and parking, according to a memorandum to the commission from Laurence Bradley, the planning and zoning director.

The majority of the expansion plan would include increasing the public space of the building by about 11,720 square feet.

This would involve a major expansion of the cafe area and a large auditorium that would replace the existing McManus Room, which is currently the largest gathering space in the building, the memorandum states.

The commission's report will include possible zoning issues, such as if the expansion will generate a need for more parking and if variances will be needed.

The commission, however, will also consider if there is an actual need for expansion.

There are also some environmental concerns that should be addressed, since the library sits on the edge of a former landfill, according to the memorandum.

In the past there have been issues with both landfill gases entering the facility and settlement issues based on the unstable nature of the soils associated with the landfill.

In addition to the proposed expansion, a number of site changes are also planned. There will be a slight reconfiguration of the Jesup Green parking lot, which will increase the green area slightly and provide some additional parking spaces for the disabled on the north side of the building, according to the memorandum.

A more prominent entrance will also be developed facing Jesup Green. This new entrance will be regraded to provide pedestrian and handicapped access from the green.

The library is located on a 10.55-acre town-owned lot and is bounded on the north by Jesup Road, on the east by Imperial Avenue, the west by the Saugatuck River and south by Dead Man's Brook.

Besides the library, the property also includes the police and EMS headquarters, the Levitt Pavilion, a public space known as Jesup Green and areas of public parking.