Referendum on Library Expansion Set for Tuesday

By Stephen Siegel
The Falls Church Times
November 7, 2016

After years of study and political wrangling, Falls Church City voters will be empowered on Tuesday to decide if they want to spend as much as $8.7 million to renovate and expand the Mary Styles Riley Library.

On the ballot is a simple question: do you agree to authorize the City to sell the requisite amount of bonds to finance that renovation, along with a 6,600 square foot expansion? But the path that led the City and its residents to this point was anything but simple.

Discussions about improvements to the library have been ongoing for many years, and they gathered steam in 2013, when the Library Board of Trustees requested $18 million and suggested the current building be demolished and a brand new library be built on the same site.

There was some pushback against the idea, both because of the price tag and because of the possibility that the City would be without a library while the new one was built. In the end, the City Council addressed the concerns about both by authorizing in July the referendum before voters now, which cut the cost of the library board’s demolition proposal in half and eliminated demolition from the options.

The new proposals include options to expand the library in two different ways while renovating the existing structure. In either case, the building’s main entrance would be moved to Park Avenue from its current location on Virginia. The library will remain open and accessible during the renovation and expansion project.

The expansion would increase the size of study areas, meeting spaces, and bathrooms, among other improvements. The renovation would update mechanical systems, including heating and cooling; replace the elevator; and meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires improved handicapped access.

City estimates say the cost of the proposal, assuming it’s approved, would be between $599,000 and $641,000 per year; the exact amount would depend on the interest rate the City is able to get on the bonds. They say that will amount of an increase in the property tax rate of less than two cents, although that still may be more than some stressed taxpayers want to absorb.

November 7, 2016 


2 Responses to “Referendum on Library Expansion Set for Tuesday”

  1. John E. Leimone on November 8th, 2016 1:19 pm

    The library much deserves to be renovated. Unfortunately, you fail to mention that the referendum gives the City Council members the right authorized bonds which could be used to move all or a part of the library to another venue, which would free up the current site for development.

    Another one of the sneaky little things that our leaders pull on unsuspecting citizens and taxpayers.

  2. Stephanie Oppennheimer on November 8th, 2016 1:53 pm

    John, just a quick fyi that you may already know but others may not … the land that the current library sits on would actually go back to the Riley family if the library were ever moved, as it was given to the City under the condition it be used only for a library. If the City moved the library, none of the $8M could be used for rent, and $8M wouldn’t be enough to build something new/free standing.

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