Monday, November 10, 2008

Digging into the Past - or Why There's No Drive-Up Book Drop Today

Scott Rihel, our architect from Healy Bender, is working on the schematic design of the downtown building. As he does so, he's finding where the existing building setbacks, etc. do not meet current zoning. He wants to know if the library received a variance.

Good question. I wasn't here when this building was built, nor was my assistant or any of my administrative staff. Neither was Mike Schwarz at the Village Planning Department or Michelle Gibas, our Village Clerk (at least not in their current positions).

So down we all dig into back files and find all sorts of interesting things: from an intergovernmental agreement to the minutes of the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to a parking study conducted in 1990.

In reviewing these, I discover that there was a drive-up book drop planned for Illinois Street in front of the library, something that has been brought up before and I never knew why it had been omitted. Now I know.

Village staff and Plan Commission required that it be moved to the library's parking lot, citing an engineering report stating that it "appears that vehicles stopping at the book drop will occupy the northbound lane and block traffic." The drive-up book drop was removed from the plan, with the walk-up book drop on the building remaining.

However, to be located in the library's parking lot, the proposed drive-up book drop would have to be placed on a tall curb. The curb would make the book drop too tall for drive-up service and impossible to use the normal roll-out bin to empty it. Additionally, a parking space would be lost to allow staff to empty the book drop. In the end, no book drop was placed in the parking lot. The walk-up book drop on building remained as the sole book drop.

Today, patrons frequently leave their vehicles standing on Illinois Street to get out and drop items into the book drop on the building. In doing so, they block northbound traffic - precisely what the Village staff and Plan Commission were seeking to avoid when they nixed the Illinois Street book drop. The true irony here is that it takes longer for them to get out and walk to the book drop than it would to use a drive-up book drop.

This peek into the past brings a new perspective to the project. In 18 years, will anyone remember why we made these decisions in the planning process? Will it still make sense? I'm sure we'll create a few problems we can't anticipate by trying to fix others that we can. I just hope that the problems we create are smaller than those we seek to avoid.

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