Library Group Tries Fresh Tack, but Is Rebuffed by Selectmen
By RACHEL KOVAC
The Edgartown library expansion project took another turn this week when a joint advisory committee reviewing the $11.5 million project asked the town selectmen for $35,000 to study the possibility of converting the old elementary school to a library.
The proposal, which is not supported by library trustees, was quickly shot down by selectmen.
"I'm not very sanguine about us spending more money," said selectman and board chairman Arthur Smadbeck after hearing the request at the weekly board meting on Monday afternoon. "For us to embark this far down the road to spend money on an alternative site. We need to address the issues of the zoning board of appeals rather than go in so many different directions."
Tension was evident among committee members, library trustees and selectmen in the crowded meeting room. Several times Mr. Smadbeck had to call for order by asking people to stop talking among themselves.
The request comes about three months after the eight-member committee, which includes four members appointed by the selectmen and four appointed by the library board of trustees, approached selectmen asking for direction.
At the July meeting selectmen instructed the committee to carefully review the project and come to some sort of consensus, but the committee has had a difficult time of it.
The original proposal by library trustees called for building a 17,000-square-foot addition connecting the Carnegie library with the Captain Warren House, bought by the town last fall for $3.5 million. The Edgartown zoning board of appeals rejected the project in April of this year - a decision that trustees thought effectively killed the project for at least four years due to funding complications.
But the library received word in July they had been placed on the waiting list for a $4 million grant from the Massachusetts board of library commissioners. The grant likely will not be awarded for at least three years, as the state library board only gives money to three or four libraries on the waiting list each year.
The library's placement on the waiting list - it is ranked 21st out of 25 libraries - gives the joint advisory committee time to rework the plan, which was criticized by zoning board members as too big for the downtown neighborhood and lacking sufficient parking.
At the joint advisory committee's last meeting members were presented with four alternative designs for the project.
"Frankly there aren't that many choices," Martin Berger told the selectmen this week. "We saw four sets of new plans and some of them I think are very neat."
Committee members said if they go with one of the new plans, the project would be much easier if they were allowed to move or demolish the Captain Warren House. The original library plan called for the Captain Warren House to remain in its current location and be restored to its 1815 appearance.
"We need to have a concerted effort to redesign one of the schematics with two things in mind - reduce the mass and increase parking," said Jeff Agnoli, chairman of the joint advisory committee."This would almost certainly mean the Captain Warren House would have to go."
Selectmen told committee members they did not care what they did with the Captain Warren house.
"I have no problem with the Captain Warren house going away," said selectman Margaret Serpa.
"Neither do I," said Mr. Smadbeck.
A Greek revival whaling captain's home, the Warren House was built in 1815 by Samuel Osborn across the street from his family home, the Daggett House. The house was called Daggett 2 until 1855 when Caroline Osborn Warren became the owner of the property with her husband Capt. Frederick Warren, who owned the Warren Steamship Line, which sailed between Boston and Liverpool, England.
Then it became the Warren House, though sometimes referred to as the Tower Cottage, because of the two-story tower Mrs. Warren added above the existing two-story dwelling on the front of the house. In more recent years the Warren House was a private home to and then became an annex to the Daggett House when it was an inn. The Daggett House and Warren House were sold to a private owner two years ago.
Over the protests of some committee members, selectmen stuck to their opinion that using the old Edgartown School for a library is no longer an option. Currently the Edgartown Council on Aging is exploring the use of the location for a senior day center and apartments.
"We have time," Mr. Smadbeck told committee members. "See if you can find some common ground. Go back to the ZBA and if you come against a brick wall, then we will look at alternatives. We have already spent all the money we are going to spend. It will be a trick probably to come up with a plan. Let's go all the way to the end of the road with plan A."