John Jermain Memorial Library Expansion Readies for Village Review

Posted on 19 November 2009


After years of debate and a lost referendum, the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) Board of Trustees earned a clear mandate for a restoration and expansion of its historic, Sag Harbor library in June with 84 percent of votes cast in favor of the project. Five months later trustees will have another hurdle to jump before they can break ground as the Village of Sag Harbor begins its formal review of a plan that almost doubles the size of the current library.

On Tuesday, November 24 that review will begin in a work session with the village planning board. According to John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon, land use attorney Gil Flanagan, environmental consultant David Emilita, representatives from the library’s contractor Sandpebble Buildings and its architects, Newman Architects will join her and members of the JJML board of trustees in making the formal presentation.

“We are bringing so many people because we want to be able to answer any questions the planning board may have for us and respond to anything they may want us to do before it comes up as a full agenda item,” said Creedon on Tuesday.

Being a work session, public comment will not be taken at this meeting, but Creedon said she welcomes any ideas or questions by members of the library district.

“I certainly would welcome the public at the meeting and certainly after next Tuesday anyone is welcome to come to me and review the materials we presented,” she said.

Following Tuesday night’s planning board work session, the library project is also slated as a discussion item on the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board’s December 10 agenda. Creedon said she was unsure when the library project would be introduced to the zoning board of appeals. All three boards must approve the project in order for it to move forward.

The library has already received one nod of approval from The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation this July. That agency determined the proposed restoration and addition “will have no adverse impact on the historic and cultural resources of Sag Harbor.”

In June, public support for the expansion and restoration of JJML reached an all-time high, with overwhelming approval of a $9,987,500 referendum for the library’s plan. The project entails repairs to JJML, first constructed in 1910, as well as a three-story 7,000 square foot addition at the rear of the historic landmark.

Restoration of an aged library building and bringing the current building to code is at the core of the library’s plan, with roughly $2.5 million of the $10 million price tag slated to cover the cost of the expansion alone.

The restoration will enable to the library to address structural issues that have led to scaffolding around the historic site – to protect patrons from falling masonry – as well as a number of leaks throughout the building, which have led to extensive water damage.

Trustees have long called for an expansion of JJML in order to comply with state building codes by the addition of an elevator for handicap accessibility and a second flight of stairs, as well as a new heating and air conditioning system – both of which are outdated and inefficient, according to Creedon. The library also hopes to connect up to the village’s sewer system.

The expansion will also allow the library to expand its services – for children, teens, seniors and the community at large. The three-story expansion allows for larger program and office space, a climate controlled archive for Sag Harbor’s historic documents and artifacts, dedicated areas for children and teens, a business center, a community room with art gallery space, and the return of a contemplative reading and study space in the third floor rotunda. That space, still outfitted with its original tiger-oak furniture is proposed to be restored in its entirety, down to the layout of chairs and tables and by bringing back to life a long dormant fireplace.

The plan has changed very little since voters approved it in June. The expansion has a modern design, primarily made of glass. Creedon said the scale of the addition has been pulled back on the Jefferson Street side of the library, but that otherwise very little has physically changed from what was approved.

A landscaping plan, designed by Beth Franz of Quinnell, Rothschild and Partners has also been submitted to the village, and Creedon said Franz created a design incorporating historic trees with new, local species. Low-mow grass was also used to cut down on the library’s water usage.

“For me, personally, the landscape plan becomes another document for the library – part of our history collection in a sense,” said Creedon.

On Tuesday, Creedon gave credit to the village’s building department for aiding her as she compiled crates of documentation for the various village boards, noting one site plan was refined just this week to ensure it complied completely with the village’s newly adopted zoning code.

“The library is welcoming the participation of the boards and the public as we move forward with this project because this library will be an integral part of the fabric of Sag Harbor,” said Creedon. “We welcome this dialogue.”

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