CRANBURY: Library Foundation seeks guidance from Planning Board

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By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – The Library Foundation came before the Cranbury Planning Board on March 17 seeking guidance on a site for a new library before hiring a civil engineer to draw up plans for the project.
“We really look for your approval on the location so when we hire our civil engineer, we’re not going to throw away engineering dollars,” said resident Mark Berkowsky, architect and member of the Library Board Facility Committee. “That’s what we hope to come away with from this meeting tonight.”
Kirstie Venanzi, president of the library board of trustees, was also present at the meeting to update the planning board on the status of the project.
“We have some final construction drawings that we are working out,” said Ms. Venanzi.
She added that fundraising for the project has raised nearly $2.2 million.
“Perhaps what is most important now is the siting of the library because we need to have that talked about before we can move forward,” she said.
Mr. Berkowsky said discussions for a new library and its placement relevant to the Master Plan have been ongoing for the past year.
“Moving the library north into a general location was in compliance with the Master Plan and we felt that would be a good location,” he said. “The Library Foundation is building the building itself, but the town has agreed to take care of the site work, site improvements and most importantly, the parking lot.”
Mr. Berkowsky said that in order for the foundation proceed with detailed engineering of the site plan, it is looking to the planning board on specifically where the library and the parking will lot located.
“The third element is a detention basin be below-grade and not a surface detention basin,” he said.
Township Engineer David Hoder suggested a dry basin, which would require less piping.
“The detention underground is probably going to be double the cost for a detention basin outside in the grass,” he said. “If you do a shallow basin in the grass area, most people don’t know it’s even there.” Mr. Hoder said that it is only going to be wet a couple hours after a storm.
Mr. Berkowsky said that one of the important elements from the Business and Professional Association is the parking lot as an extension from the village so merchants and their customers would be able to see the parking lot.
“That’s the reason for the location on the northern side,” he said. “From the foundation’s standpoint, it could go either way. The parking lot is proposed for 20 cars with potential expansion should the requirement be there in the future.”
Mr. Berkowsky said another element is a future road, which was shown on the Master Plan so they are moving the library far enough back from the property line to allow that road if needed. “It will still be a walking library from Park Place West,” he said.
Planning Board Chairman Allan Kehrt said that he sat in on most of the library design meetings. He said that part of the original intention was to have a presence downtown.
“When you were on Main Street you could see the library,” he said, referring to the original rendering. He said now resident are now going to look down and see cars.
“So I think that is an issue from my prospective,” he said. He added that his concern is that there is no visual access to the library from the town.
“I think that’s an extraordinarily big issue,” said Mr. Kehrt. “The original intent of the building was so that when people were downtown they could look up Park Place or if they asked directions somebody could say go to Park Place and turn left and you’ll see the library.”
Right now, where it’s sited you won’t see the library, he said.
“I’m concerned about it,” he said. “I really think it should still be pushed up so it aligns with Park Place. I honestly believe that you can make it work.”
“We are happy to go in that direction,” Mr. Berkowsky said.
Mr. Kehrt the opened the meeting up for questions and concerns from planning board members, which ranged from how did the back of the building look, entrances being uses and locations, how the school would access the library, township covering the site plan, signage and more.
“I think if you are going to do a brand new library, make it look like it belongs in Cranbury,” Mr. Kehrt said. “You ought to be able to see it.”
At the end of the discussion, Mr. Berkowsky inquired about a conclusion from the Planning Board.
“If I could try to get a conclusion because we are moving forward, hiring an engineer to do a design,” he said. “It’s our money that we are using so we’ve got to spend it wisely.”
Mr. Kehrt made a couple of suggestions. “I think we could move the building further north so that it is visible from Main Street and so that some of the parking is visible from Main Street,” he said. “Will that satisfy the library and the township committee?”
“I think that’s the feedback we are looking for,” said Mr. Berkowsky.

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