Back to the drawing board again.
The Edgartown Library building committee voted yesterday to abandon plans for a new North Water street site in favor of demolishing the old Edgartown School and starting anew.
Committee members left a meeting with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners on Tuesday in Lakeville with the impression that the Edgartown library would not receive a matching state grant needed to build the new addition, citing issues with interior layout and limited parking. When they discussed the historic nature of both the Carnegie building and the abutting Warren House, the state board showed little interest in preservation.
The committee will present two options to the selectmen on Monday afternoon: to tear down the old school and construct a new building, or to use available funds to fix up the current library without an addition. The committee also will propose selling the Warren House and using those funds to supplement either project.
In a 5 to 2 vote, the committee favored moving the library to the old school site.
The committee has struggled to fit in a large expansion project within the North Water street site due to existing historically significant conditions, including keeping the Carnegie building, the lawn area in front of the building and the Warren House intact.
In a showdown between North Water street residents, the building committee and the town historic district commission two weeks ago, residents made passionate pleas to keep the Warren House. In the end, the committee was told by the historic commission the 18th century building could not be torn down and be replaced by a proposed parking lot.
The town purchased the Warren House for $3.5 million five years ago with no plan of how to incorporate it into the original library expansion project. The Carnegie building is deeded for library use only. The town will have to come up with an alternative use for it if it does not house the library or the building will return to its heirs.
“I think this [committee] has tried really hard, it’s been too big on the site since day one trying to cram this thing in there to try and get it to fit,” selectman Michael Donaroma said. “It keeps getting more and more complicated. When we talked about the North Water street parking lot, it wasn’t a sensitive issue, it was a nuclear bomb.”
“We’ve got a lot to do; it’s a tough crossroads we’re at right here,” he continued. “How many times are we going to get kicked in the teeth with this project and be able to keep it where it is?”
“I don’t want to dismiss the input we’ve had for nine months,” committee member Chris Scott said, noting a strong difference in opinions among library trustees, the foundation and North Water street residents. “It is valid to pursue an option where we take a look at the site with what we’ve got, say to heck with the state guidelines and see what it will take to renovate a smaller program.”
There are currently 30 applications vying for $60 million of state money, including West Tisbury. But with a Jan. 27 grant deadline looming, some committee members are worried about rushing the project through. The next grant round will not be available for at least five years, possibly longer.
“I’m greatly concerned that we are reacting in a very limited time frame for a project that has a very substantial piece of history and we’re not giving it due diligence, we’re not taking the time that this really warrants,” said committee member Richard Knight, who voted against moving the library to the old school site. “I think that while the library itself needs new space to do this right we should not be rushing; if we can’t get in this grant round, then so be it. I think this is more important to the town to make a decision based on town needs than based on meetings with the MBLC,” he added.
The latest decision is a departure from an Oct. 29 meeting when the committee decided to focus on building an addition to the historic Carnegie library. But with conflict after conflict, committee member Carl Watt made a motion to advise the selectmen this was the committee’s chosen path. Architects Celia Imrey and Jeffrey Hoover will take a third swing at a new design at the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road site, with hopes of completing both the design and the grant by the January deadline.
Earlier in the meeting, the committee elected Mr. Donaroma as committee chairman after Mr. Scott stepped down last Friday. Mr. Scott said his first responsibility was to the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, of which he is executive director, but he was still committed to seeing the project through to the end. Mr. Watt was elected as vice chairman.