Mayor and Town Council
Roger Stancil, Town Manager
Chapel Hill Public Library Expansion Special Use Permit Application – Consideration of Issues from the Owner’s Perspective and Authorization of Next Steps in the Project
January 14, 2008
This report provides information from the Town as Owner/Applicant in response to comments and questions offered at the November 12, 2007 Public Hearing and by advisory boards regarding our application for a Special Use Permit Modification for the Chapel Hill Public Library Expansion project.
The attached resolution would authorize the Manager to proceed with the development of detailed construction drawings and seek construction bids for the project.
In November 2003, voters approved a $16.23 million bond for improvements to the Chapel Hill Public Library. In June of 2004, the Town Council appointed a 15 member Library Building Committee to select an architect for a facility expansion project, and work with the architect through the schematic design process. In October of 2006 the Town executed a contract with Corley, Redfoot, Zack Inc., working with Robert A. M. Stern Architects, to prepare plans for the library expansion project and improvements to Pritchard Park.
During the winter and spring of 2007, the design consultants worked with affected Town staff and developed design options for consideration by the Library Building Committee. The process involved a number of meetings with the Library Building Committee resulting in a Conceptual Plan that was approved by the Committee on June 14, 2007. On June 18, 2007, the Town Council, acting in its regulatory role, conducted its Concept Plan review of the proposed expansion.
On July 18, 2007 a Schematic Design proposal for the Library building expansion project was presented to the Library Building Committee. The design consultants received comments from the Committee and on September 6, 2007 they presented the final Schematic Design to the Committee. This plan reflected revisions and refinements to the design in response to the Committee’s previous comments. This Schematic Design was unanimously endorsed by the Committee at this meeting.
On September 24, 2007 the Town Council, acting in its role as owner, approved the Schematic Design proposal and authorized the Town’s consultants to proceed with Design Development drawings. During the month of October 2007, the Special Use Permit Modification plans were completed and taken to various Town Boards and Commissions for their review. Presentations were made to the Planning Board, the Community Design Commission, the Transportation Board, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Greenways Commission and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. The Special Use Permit Modification plans were then presented to the Town Council at the Public Hearing held on November 12, 2007.
Issues from the Public Hearing
The information below responds, from the Town’s perspective as applicant/owner, to issues raised during the November 12, 2007 Public Hearing and comments from advisory boards, both before and after the hearing.
Staff comment: The project will include both photo-voltaic and flat panel solar collectors. Flat panel solar collectors will be used to provide hot water for the building additions and as a retrofit to the systems in the existing building. The number of photo-voltaic panels used in the project will be determined during development of construction documents and will likely be limited by the amount of funds available.
Staff Comment: This will be addressed in consultation with the Council’s Sustainability, Energy and Environment Subcommittee as future building operating budgets are developed for the project.
Staff Comment: The photo-voltaic systems will be designed with dedicated circuits such that they can either be metered separately, and the generated power resold to Duke Energy through their “buy-all/sell-all” interconnection option, or connected through a single building bidirectional meter, using Duke Energy’s “net metering” interconnection option. During the development of construction documents the staff will consult with the Council’s Sustainability, Energy and Environment Subcommittee to determine which Duke Energy interconnection option will be initially utilized and the number and type of meters that will need to be installed.
Staff Response: The Town’s design consultants have reviewed possible locations for exterior sunscreens to control excess light and heat gain and recommend that they be utilized on the east facade of the entrance lobby and the west clerestory of the large meeting room in addition to the east, south and west facades of the new southern addition. In other locations on the east, south and west facades the design consultants believe a combination of deep roof overhangs and low-e glass will be sufficient to control excess light and heat gain.
Staff Response: A wayfinding signage plan will be developed during development of construction drawings. This plan will include provisions for a clearly visible sign on East Franklin Street directing bicyclists and pedestrians to the sidewalk connection across the Sherwood Colony property and a number of on-site signs providing directions from all points of access to the proposed bicycle parking areas and the building’s two entrances. This plan will be designed to assure that bicyclists will have convenient fully paved access to all bicycle parking with a minimum of conflict points with automobile traffic. Once this plan is developed it can be presented to the Town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board for its review and comment.
As proposed, the plans also include construction of a section of greenway starting across from the proposed lower parking lot and running through the park to the building’s main entrance and primary bicycle parking area. Although somewhat longer than the current section of bikeway paralleling the driveway that this greenway is proposed to replace, it will be generally less steep and likely more appealing for most people using the existing bikeway. A supplemental sidewalk loop off this greenway is proposed so that this new pedestrian and bicycle access will meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility guidelines.
Staff Response: As originally proposed the plans included an ADA accessible parking space in the staff parking lot with an accessible ramp to the lower entrance. During development of the construction drawings the plans will be revised to include an accessible connection between this ramp and the sidewalk adjacent to Library Drive. This proposed connection will consist of a length of sidewalk adjacent to the staff parking lot entrance.
Staff Response: The lower entrance as included on the plans is functionally very important to the Library, and especially pedestrians accessing the building from Estes Drive and the proposed new lower parking lot. The Council could stipulate that it remain open when the Library is open or during specified times as a condition of the Special Use Permit approval. Alternatively, the Council could direct the Town Manager on issues related to access through the lower entrance. To retain Library staffing and use flexibility we recommend that the Council address this issue directly through the Town Manager as an operational management matter rather than as a binding condition of approval.
Staff Response: On November 19, 2007 the staff distributed a memorandum to the Transportation Board outlining the bus service issues that arose at the November 12, 2007 Council Public Hearing (attachment 1). On January 10, 2008, the staff returned to the Transportation Board to receive comments and recommendations related to the identified issues. A summary of the Transportation Board’s comments will be distributed at tonight’s Council meeting.
We believe that the project as currently proposed does not preclude any future changes that may be considered or implemented to improve bus service to the Library. These future changes, if deemed needed, will be determined in consultation with the Town’s transit partners and in addition to involving level of service and budgetary issues could include physical improvements on the Library property. We believe the Council could consider implementing these possible changes when the need for them has been fully established and we do not recommend that specific stipulations be considered at this time as a part of the Special Use Permit Modification process.
Staff response: The design of the lower parking lot is constrained by the adjacent property line and required buffer to the east and the Resource Conservation District to the south. The resulting triangular configuration results in interior parking aisles with turning radii that cannot accommodate buses. An alternative approach could be to construct a second entrance off of Estes Drive near the eastern property line to connect to and through the proposed lower parking lot thereby eliminating the tight turning radii involved in looping around the lot. This would require a driveway permit from NCDOT, which could be problematic due to its proximity to the East Franklin Street intersection, and would involve substantial disturbance in the RCD, and we do not recommend it at this time.
Staff response: During development of the construction drawings the plans will be revised to include a drive-through book drop. In discussions between the Town’s design consultants and Library staff it was determined that from an operational perspective it is best located as close to the main circulation desk as possible. Accordingly, it is proposed to located be in the traffic circle adjacent to the main entrance and will be designed to complement the proposed building architecture.
Staff Response: The existing natural surface trail system at the library will access the belvedere from the west. This trail system will require minor modifications near the proposed Library and park improvements and will be reworked after construction so that it can be accessed directly from the playground.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
We believe that the project as designed will represent a good balance between the principles of Sustainable Development and Fiscal Responsibility. We believe these are the values that the community expects from the Town as a developer. In adhering to these values, we believe that the project meets the requirements of the Land Use Management Ordinance.
If the Council approves the Special Use Permit, we would anticipate completion of construction documents in the spring of 2008. Project bidding and contract negotiations would then be initiated with a goal to begin building construction by the end of the year.
We recommend that the Council adopt Resolution A, approving the Special Use Permit with conditions. If the Council approves the Special Use Permit, we also recommend that the Council adopt the following Resolution which would authorize the Manager to begin work on construction drawings and begin the bidding process.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (January 14, 2008)