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Park land leading library site

January 18, 2001

Park land leading library site



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


SMITHSBURG - The town of Smithsburg is considering obtaining land from the Washington County Board of Education to allow a new library to be built in Veterans Park.

Smithsburg Library Board President Judith Ferro said last week that a 1 1/2-acre parcel in the park is the leading site for the new library branch. Two other privately owned pieces also are under consideration.

The 27-acre park is being developed with money from Maryland's Program Open Space, which does not permit a library as a park use. Obtaining nearby School Board property and substituting it for the potential library parcel would leave about 27 acres for park land.

Washington County Planning Director Robert Arch said the town may purchase the right to use the land, but specifics haven't been discussed.

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Dennis McGee, the school system's director of facilities management, said Tuesday that the School Board hadn't been formally asked to participate. He said he didn't know details of the plan.

The proposal is in its early stages. Arch said Tuesday that he has contacted the state Department of Natural Resources, which administers Program Open Space. DNR plans to look at the parcel soon to see if the idea has merit, Arch said.

John Surrick, a DNR spokesman, said Program Open Space recipients can swap land if the new parcel is nearby and if its monetary and recreational value is as high as, or greater than, the current parcel.

The library board and the park commission in Smithsburg met last week with the Town Council to discuss the project.

"We all agreed that it would be a good and wise pursuit to try to put the library in the park," Ferro said.

County Commissioner William J. Wivell, a Smithsburg resident who attended the meeting, said the School Board parcel is about a quarter-mile away from the park, along a creek, within town limits.

The school district's property is OK for parkland, but it won't support the library, Wivell said, because of its location and lack of parking and utilities.

Ferro said the potential library parcel, behind a cemetery, is in the half of the park that won't be developed within the next five years.

The park's front entrance would lead to the library. A second entrance would be created off Cave Hill Road, Ferro said.

The size of the building hasn't been decided yet, but Ferro has predicted it will be 6,000 to 8,000 square feet.

An architectural firm hired by the Washington County Free Library suggested just under 10,000 square feet for the Smithsburg branch, regardless of the site. Library officials have called that a maximum that is more than is necessary now.

Many consider the current Smithsburg library, a 1,096-square-foot building on East Water Street, to be cramped and outdated.

A five-person committee made up of members of the library board, the park commission and the Town Council has formed to study the land and building ideas.

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