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Library parking lot no longer booked

City Council approves building additional patron parking spots for West Linn Public Library

Signaling a sigh of relief from supporters of the West Linn Public Library, West Linn's city council approved a resolution to mitigate parking capacity problems at the library at a special meeting Monday night.

The resolution, which passed four to one, allows the city to use Clackamas County funds to purchase an adjacent vacant property, located at 5750 Hood St., that is currently owned by the Coston family.

In the resolution, it also approved an agreement negotiated with neighboring tenant Polar Systems to use two spots in its lot for library staff during business hours and allow full use of the lot to staff and patrons after hours and on weekends, the library's peak use time.

As a result, library parking will effectively double.

With 36 parking spots currently available, the West Linn Public Library has faced parking capacity issues for nearly a decade.

After its 2001 expansion project, additional spaces were not added, although the Community Development Code called for the number available to be increased to 56.

For a few years, the library used 16 spots across the street from the library in what is now Central Village. This agreement was discontinued when the land changed hands.

Meanwhile, the number of annual library visitors has increased from 151,000 in 2001 to 393,000. Additionally, its annual circulation has increased by 93 percent to more than 750,000 items.

'People don't want to attend programs because they can't park,' City Manager Chris Jordan said.

City staff has explored other options for increasing library access, including one that would have condemned the property that now houses Polar Systems, although none were pursued.

With the passage of the County Library District in 2008, Clackamas County agreed to provide $1 million to each library in the county for capital improvements.

Both the West Linn City Council and the West Linn Library Advisory Board have identified increased parking as the No. 1 priority for West Linn's portion of these funds.

The city will now purchase the property at 5750 Hood St. and design a new parking area using a pervious, permeable surface using $200,000 of county funds plus construction costs.

The project will create 10 to 13 spaces, depending on design and surface material.

However, Councilor Teri Cummings, who voted 'no' on the resolution, said she was concerned that the purchase of the Coston property was 'not a good deal.'

She pointed out that the property is located in a water resource area and will need a platform to accommodate its slope that will require additional setbacks.

The city's land-use code allows property owners to disturb up to 5,000 square feet during construction in these water resource areas, and Jordan said the parking lot construction would only affect 4,000 square feet. He said the city also plans to work with master gardeners to incorporate native plants into the landscaping of the property.

Cummings said she was also concerned about the effect of traffic on neighbors and would want the city to pursue other negotiations, for example with Gramor Development for use of spaces in Central Village.

And, as the property is priced above its appraised value, 'I don't feel like paying this amount of money,' she said.

However, despite the cost, other city councils agreed that the property was significant enough to merit the expense.

'This is a prudent decision,' Councilor Mike Jones said. 'For a decade West Linn, with no ill intent, stopped access to a (critical) entity… This is a chance to fix that.'

Councilor Jenni Tan noted that, on a pure cost basis, the Coston property was her first choice as is it costs less than the other adjacent, unavailable property considered, which would cost $400,000 plus construction costs.

Tom Miller, vice chair of the Library Advisory Board, noted in his testimony to city council that this resolution will allow the project to be completed quickly as it does not require voter approval.

He said it will also allow the library to begin carrying forward with goals set forth in its strategic plan, approved by the city council in April.

'It will remove the elephant in the reading room,' he said.