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Library board requests new Lincolnton, East Lincoln libraries

Inside the Charles R. Jonas Library in downtown Lincolnton.

Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Library Board of Trustees presented a list of facility priorities during Monday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.

Earlier this year, Kimberly Bolan and Associates, a library consulting firm, completed an in-depth study of the county’s libraries and offered a summary of the most pressing needs.

“Our board was tasked to present our priorities from the Kimberly Bolan and Associates consultant study in February,” library board chair Dr. Becky Reavis said. “You may recall that they did community groups, focus groups and surveys, and they had a very good response rate. Overall, there were very strong sentiments from the residents of Lincoln County that the overall library capabilities and resources were lacking in several different areas.”

In April, the commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with the construction of a new West Lincoln library facility on 35 acres of donated land near West Lincoln High School. The original plan was to build a 10,000 square-foot library to replace the current 2,500 square-foot facility located in a shopping center off of Highway 27 in Vale. That plan has since evolved, expanding the future library to 12,000 square feet, but the library board is requesting a minimum of 14,000 square feet to accommodate space for patrons of all ages and interests.

“Libraries are no longer about books, that’s a thing of the past,” Reavis said. “We have great collections, but the days of going into a quiet library and being shushed while looking for your book, that’s not what libraries are anymore. Of course there are still people who go to the library to check out books, but libraries have become these active, creative spaces with great meeting spaces where community groups can come together and share their ideas. Overall, the sentiment of our board is that our county deserves better libraries and we appreciate everything that has been invested so far, but we do believe that our facilities are inadequate as they are currently.”

The library board has requested a meeting space with a minimum 100-seat capacity, a teen space, given the proximity to the area schools, and a children’s space with a family bathroom, movable furniture, floor pillows and technology appropriate for children at the new West Lincoln library, all of which has been included in preliminary talks with architects, according to County Manager Kelly Atkins.

The library board has recommended that the county secure a location for a new Lincolnton library as soon as possible before land becomes unavailable or more expensive. The board has requested the construction of a multi-story facility with a parking deck so that the library can be built on a smaller lot, preferably in downtown Lincolnton.

Given the expected difficulty of expanding the Florence S. Shanklin Memorial Library in Denver, the library board has also recommended the construction of an additional facility of at least 16,000 square feet in the vicinity of East Lincoln High School. The board also proposed cosmetic updates at the Shanklin library to be completed within the next 10 years.

The library board has floated the idea of a bond referendum to cover all of their funding requests related to the potential construction of these new facilities. Their goal is to have all of the facilities completed by 2025, which will be the 100-year anniversary of the Lincoln County Public Library system.

In other county business, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve three amendments to the Lincoln County Unified Development Ordinance, two of which come as a result of new state laws.

The first state law requires that a governing board, in approving a zoning amendment that is inconsistent with an adopted comprehensive plan such as the Lincoln County Land Use Plan, to adopt a statement declaring that the approval is also deemed an immediate amendment to the plan that has been modified. The new state law is the result of a regulatory reform bill signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper this summer that will take effect on Oct. 1.

The second amendment puts the county in compliance with another new state law that exempts certain divisions of land from local subdivision standards and establishes a new category of subdivisions that qualify for expedited review.

The division of land to settle an estate will now be exempt from local subdivision regulations, according to Session Law 2017-10, which Cooper signed into law in May. The law also states that a parcel of land that is under single ownership and greater than five acres will be allowed an expedited review process requiring only final plat review as long as no more than three lots result from the division of the land. The amendment also exempts those same subdivided parcels from the minimum road construction standards.

The third and final amendment adds community facilities such as churches and schools as projects that are eligible for a special nonresidential intensity allocation (SNIA) under the 10/70 option in water-supply watershed districts. For nonresidential projects, the watershed regulations limit the built-upon area to a certain percentage of the total acreage of the site unless an SNIA is approved.

Under the 10/70 option, 10 percent of the acreage in a watershed district may be developed with new projects that have up to 70 percent built-upon area. To date, a total of 12 projects have been approved under the 10/70 option, according to Lincoln County zoning administrator Randy Hawkins.

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will hold their next meeting on Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of the James W. Warren Citizens Center, located at 115 West Main Street.

Image courtesy of LTN File

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