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Reconsider building Chemainus' new library on the old firehall site, Bruce urges.

Some Chemainiacs want their new library built on the old fire-hall site, not at Waterwheel
Some Chemainiacs want their new library built on the old fire-hall site, not at Waterwheel's parking lot, to keep parking space for shoppers, tourists, buses, plus markets and more.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

"There's still a slim chance Chemainus' new library could be built on the old fire-hall site, the mayor says.

But don't hold your breath.

"There's always a chance to reconsider, until you're actually committed," North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said after hearing Chemainus Library Council's plea Wednesday to reconsider not building the book facility on Waterwheel Park's parking lot.

"Our parking analysis will determine if we're creating a difficult situation for traffic and parking.

"It's premature to talk about lost parking. Within the site we don't know the library's exact footprint."

Some Chemainiacs believe about 50 of Waterwheel's 80-odd parking spots will lost to the library, along with crucial parking for shoppers, tourists, 1,000 buses annually, markets, music and more.

"We think we can come about equal to the parking spots now, with road use and the (current) parking lot," Lefebure said.

But locals such as former mayor Graham Bruce are doubtful.

Bruce handed council nine points Wednesday touting slower, long-term planning using the fire-hall site for the library being built by the Vancouver lsland Regional Library board.

Flattening the fire hall could allow some 30,000 square feet of new space for the library, Festival of Murals offices, visitor infocentre, Harvest House food bank, the chamber of commerce, and more, he said.

His delegation suggested council complete a traffic-and-parking strategy using summer data, and determine impacts on convenience parking; deal with bus drivers and companies about parking-lot access, parking and bus-stay times; get input from commercial property and business owners; incorporate museum expansion as part of revitalization; and enhance Waterwheel Park and the community-square parking lot.

Bruce explained designer H.B. Lanarc's conceptual library plan at Waterwheel "is a good discussion document but it’s not a decision document."

He also cited community and business beefs with the parking-lot site, noting surveys show some 70% of locals oppose Waterwheel site — with similar support for the fire-hall spot.

But Lefebure said the Chemainus Advisory Committee and council reconfirmed the Waterwheel site three times: once during the former council's term; again in January under a CAC review; and finally in April after a public meeting in the parking lot, where the museum wants to keep its separate building, plus an addition.

CAC's Tom Andrews explained his group backed using Waterwheel's lot to support Willow Street revitalization, and to develop a town-square.

"Buses can still park in front of the museum," he said, "and there's additional parking on public property that can be paved and marked behind the fire hall.

"Overall net loss was something like eight parking spots."

Library costs and drawing were unavailable for the new 5,500-square-foot, single-floor facility replacing the current 1,200-square-foot library, Lefebure said.

The fire-hall site, he and Andrews noted, could be a community centre housing Festival of Murals' offices, Neighbourhood House, visitor infocentre, plus second- and third-floor subsidized housing and condos.

Bruce's nine points will be discussed, along with parking-study results, Andrews said.

"People have to adapt. Sometimes downtowns are better suited to people and bikes."

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