City debates library plans



February 24, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Planned renovations to Iola Public Library may have hit a snag before they’ve even begun.
Iola commissioners discussed Tuesday whether adding a vestibule on the west side of the library — one of the centerpieces of the renovations — would violate Iola’s zoning ordinances.
The vestibule includes a wheelchair ramp to make a new community room on the west side of the library handicap-accessible.
At issue is the library’s close proximity to the nearby parking lot owned by the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
The building already is closer than the five-foot setback required by law, Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Bauer said. Adding the vestibule compounds the city’s noncomplicance.
Commissioners discussed other options, including whether the Bowlus would be willing to deed the parking lot to the city; rezoning the block from residential business to central business, thus eliminating the setback; or having the USD 257 school board acting as Bowlus trustees approve an easement on the edge of the parking lot, which has been recommended by the Bowlus Commission.
Rezoning the block creates a time issue, Bauer noted, because the process would take at least 60 days.
Iolan Tom Strickler, a member of the Bowlus Commission, questioned why the Bowlus would give away an entire parking lot if allowing an easement would suffice. “We’re talking 3.1 feet,” Strickler said.
Commissioners also asked whether the Bowlus could deed over half the lot.
“Then you’re dealing with a lot split, and you’d have an entirely new list of problems to deal with,” City Attorney Chuck Apt replied.
In the end, commissioners went with a motion to support Bauer’s approval of a building permit — when it arrives — provided the board of education allows an easement next to the library.
The motion was approved 2-1, Commissioner Craig Abbott opposed.
Both Abbott and Apt said they didn’t think a simple easement was sufficient legally.
“If this was anybody else trying to do the same thing, we’d say ‘no,’” Apt said. “The law is very clear.”
Bauer said the library has yet to apply for the building permit.

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