Town leaders voted March 7 to formally endorse building a new community branch and future regional library on Judd Parkway, despite some lingering concerns about the location.
The proposed site is about a mile east of the town’s existing downtown library at the intersection of South Fuquay Avenue and Raleigh Street.
Because the library would be built and paid for by Wake County with bond money, the vote was meant to show support rather than grant approval.
Commissioner Marilyn Gardner cast the lone dissenting vote against the resolution. She said the new location next to Southern Regional Center would be less walkable than the current site, blocks from Fuquay-Varina Middle School.
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“We also have a high density of resident and low-income seniors in walking distance of the current site of library who would have difficulty getting to the new site at Judd Parkway,” she said. “At our current stage of growth, we don’t have a shuttle that could get them over there.”
The site is one of three locations that had been considered by county staff. The Judd Parkway site was picked because it has room to expand, plus the county already owns other land nearby.
The county had considered two other locations: one between the two downtown districts or its current site, where it’s been for 50 years.
Assistant Town Manager Mark Matthews said the county decided the current site was less than ideal for later expansion.
On foot, the new library site is 20 to 25 minutes away from downtown. It will double the size of the current library.
Before the vote, Town Manager Adam cautioned against delaying support for the Judd Parkway site. He said a recommendation from the board would go a long way toward ensuring Fuquay-Varina’s library is selected as a regional site – a major priority for the town.
“The county would be reluctant to move forward with their plan if they didn’t think the community was supportive of it,” he said. “They might therefore divert some of the funds earmarked for a Fuquay-Varina location.”
Other commissioners said they shared some of Gardner’s concerns about losing a downtown library, but that a library on Judd Parkway is better than no new library at all.
“The last thing we want to do is get in a squabble over it and have the county look over at Rolesville and have them say, ‘Well, they want a library right now,’ ” Mayor John Byrne said.
Commissioner Jason Wunsch added that the town’s library, which is busier than many others in the county despite its relatively small 4,400-square-foot size, needs to be able to grow.
Gardner conceded that a downtown site was likely no longer feasible, but said she felt the choice had been made too hastily.
“With citizen involvement early on, we might have been able to do something about a downtown site,” Gardner said.
Construction is expected to begin next year with completion scheduled for late 2017 or early 2018. The library will operate at its current site until then, when it will be handed over to the town. No plans have been discussed for the building.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan