By a 7-0 unanimous vote, the Falls Church City Council Monday gave a preliminary approval to the placement of a bond referendum on the ballot in November for an $8.7 million renovation and expansion of the Mary Riley Styles Public Library across from City Hall. The measure will come back to the Council in late July for a final vote, and the Council expressed hope that substantial public input could be gleaned in the meantime as guidance for its final vote of approval. If OK’d in July, the measure would come before all the City’s voters this November.
With the bond referendum approved a year ago for the renovation and expansion of the Mt. Daniel Elementary School in limbo now because of delays by the Planning Commission in Fairfax County, and the imminent needs for capital expenditures to renovate and expand the Falls Church City Hall, the George Mason High School and even the Henderson Middle School, many on the Council Monday night were reticent to give carte blanche approval for the library bond measure.
However, chief librarian Mary McMahon spelled out a strong case for the need of the library for renovation and expansion, including its current ADA non-compliance and mechanical shortcomings, including frequent breakdowns of the elevator and the HVAC system. The popularity of the library, an eight consecutive year winner of 4-Star Library standing, in the face of Falls Church’s population growth, projected to reach 17,000 by 2030 in some estimates, underscored the need for the improvements, she said, at a relatively modest cost of $8.7 million compared to earlier projections of twice that amount.
The Council was careful to have the measure approved Monday include language that would not bind the referendum measure to one particular location, a matter that is cause for considerable heartburn now in the Mt. Daniel renovation case. The Mt. Daniel case comes before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on July 21, and the F.C. Council is slated to act on second and final approval of the library bond referendum on July 25.