CENTREVILLE — The Kent Island Branch Library expansion took a step closer to reality Thursday, Nov. 14, when the Queen Anne’s County Planning Commission granted the project a shore buffer reduction and approved the concept plan.

The county is proposing an 11,900 square-foot addition to the existing library building in Stevensville with an additional 50 parking spaces. The project will more than double the size of the library, which currently consists of a 9,530 sq. ft. building and 71 parking spaces.

Before the project was presented, Planning Commission attorney Chris Drummond noted the library property is zoned suburban estate, which allows institutional uses, and the design guidelines in the town center zones do not apply.

Queen Anne’s County’s 300-ft. shore buffer is more stringent than the 100-ft. shore buffer required by the Critical Area Commission. Public facilities planner Steve Cohoon said the county’s 300-ft. shore buffer covers 75 percent of the 16-acre site, including portions of the existing library and parking lot.

The entire property is in the Critical Area and designated as a limited development area, which limits the impervious coverage to a maximum of 15 percent of the site. The existing and proposed lot coverage will total 13.3 percent coverage, within the Critical Area requirements, Cohoon said.

Some tree clearing is proposed for the new parking area, and the county will need to replant trees for those cleared one to one, Cohoon said. He said the plantings would go on other county property as a large section of mature woodland will still exist on the library site.

Architect Craig Williams presented the details of the concept plan along with slides. The design was complicated by the requirement to keep the current library open during construction, he said, so the expansion will be created next to the existing building and the two joined together.

He called the expansion a “glass box” with a lot of outdoor views. He said it is a modern facility with a lot of space for programming, maker spaces and outdoor classrooms.

Planning Commissioner David B. Douglas said he thought the way the old was integrated with new was complimentary, but thought the entrance needed more emphasis.

“I like the clean cut appearance quite frankly,” said Commissioner Robert Priest.

Commissioner Sheila Tolliver asked if they had considered pervious pavers for the parking area, and Commissioner Tom Leigh wanted to know where the stormwater management systems were located and if they had considered sea level rise.

Tom Davis of DMS & Associates LLC said they could look at using pervious pavers for some of the parking spots. He said the parking is all above the flood plain elevation.

Planning Commission Chairman Jeffrey Reiss asked if they could catch rain water on the site for non-potable uses.

Lee Edgar with the county’s Department of Public Works told planners the project, as presented, is within budget.

Tolliver wanted to know how much woodland clearing was planned. Cohoon said regulations allow up to 20 percent, but they are only proposing 4 percent.

Miles/Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett said she was concerned about water quality.

Cox Creek next to the library feeds into Eastern Bay, which is usually better in water quality than many other local bodies of water. But Cox Creek is getting worse, Bassett said.

She said she favored the project with changes, that the concept plan didn’t do enough to protect the “already impaired” Cox Creek.

“We have an opportunity to showcase what stormwater management can be,” she said.

Queen Anne’s County Library Director Janet Salazar said libraries “are not the book warehouses they used to be” but are “community centers” and “self-directed learning centers.”

The new space provides lots of areas for programming, study rooms, meeting rooms and more, she said.

Tolliver said she liked the light and especially the rear rendering of the building, but she wondered if there was a better way to marry the brick of the old building with the concrete of the new.

Librarian Julie Ranelli said the Kent Island Library had 155,000 visitors last year and the existing 71 parking spaces weren’t enough to handle the existing programs.

People park on the grass; the library appeals to Ram Head across the street and Bayside Elementary next door to let people park there, she said. And at times, like during early voting and some of the most popular programs like Reptile Wonders, it can get dangerous, she added.

With an additional, larger meeting room in the expansion and new programming space, the library felt the additional parking is needed, Ranelli said.

Joshua Willis of Stevensville said, “I love the library .. and I love the idea of having additional space … but I also love the water.” He said the shore buffer shouldn’t be reduced.

Pat Rockwell of Church Hill, while in favor of the library expansion, objected to the design. “I would rather see a peaked roof,” Rockwell said, and continue the brick look.

Jody Schulz of Chester said he was all for the library, but the design would never have made it to the Planning Commission had it been zoned town center. He said the expansion should look like the existing library.

Douglas made the motion to grant the shore buffer reduction, seconded by Leigh. The motion passed, 5-1, with Reiss against. He said he didn’t think the plan addressed water quality enough.

Douglas made the motion to approve the concept plan, seconded by Tolliver. That motion also passed, 5-1, with Reiss against.

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