Library, borough to explore sharing facilities

Nearly a year ago, the relationship between the Kennett Library and the borough qualified as acrimonious: Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick suggested cutting off funding, and a task force was formed to ensure that the library was serving the community.

Borough Council President Danilo Maffei (from left) shakes hands with Bill McLachlan, a member of the library board. They are joined by board members Carolyn Nicander Mohr and Jeff Yetter and Library Director Donna Murray.

Borough Council President Danilo Maffei (from left) shakes hands with Bill McLachlan, a member of the library board, after reading a statement about potentially sharing space. They are joined by board members Carolyn Nicander-Mohr and Jeff Yetter and Library Director Donna Murray.

Fast-forward to Kennett Square Borough Council’s meeting on Monday, June 6. It showcased a decidedly convivial atmosphere as a handful of library representatives were on hand for the announcement of a new collaborative venture. Discussions about a vision for a new library facility — it has outgrown its space in the 200 block of East State Street in Kennett Square — gave way to the possibility of combining borough and library functions in one place.

“So, we are happy to announce that the library is about to undertake a planning initiative to determine the needs of the community as they relate to a new library, and borough facilities will be considered part of this project,” said Borough Council President Danilo Maffei, who made the announcement. “Currently, both parties envision the Kennett Library, borough administration, and borough police housed in the same community center and located within the borough’s corporate limits.”

Maffei noted that the other seven municipalities the library serves —East Marlborough, Kennett, Newlin, New Garden, Pennsbury, Pocopson, and West Marlborough townships — were consulted and did not oppose exploring the possibility, which will be funded in part through a Vision Partnership Program grant from Chester County.

“We believe that this collaboration on a new facility will serve the community well into the future and will result in reduced construction costs for both parties,” said Borough Manager Joseph Scalise.

Fetick credited the library board’s new leadership with fostering positive changes. Maffei added that much work remains before a decision can be made on whether a multi-use community center makes economic sense. “There’s a long, steep road ahead of us,” Maffei said. “We’ll keep you apprised.”

In other business, Mary Hutchins, executive director of Historic Kennett Square, reported that The Creamery, a pop-up beer garden on Birch Street, opened last week to rave reviews. “It is quickly becoming a popular gathering space for the community,” she said.

In addition, she said two other new businesses debuted: Salt and Stone, a jewelry-making gallery located under the Kennett Inn in the 200 block of East State Street; and La Medera Bistro, a restaurant that took over the space in the 100 block of East State Street that was formerly occupied by Byrsa Bistro.

Hutchins also provided an update on the Economic Development Study, an initiative commissioned by Historic Kennett Square, the borough, Kennett Township, Chester County, Genesis HealthCare and Longwood Gardens to help set priorities for where and how the region grows in an effort to protect the area’s natural, rural, cultural and historic heritage.

The final plan, which is expected within the next few weeks, will include recommendations, time lines, and suggestions on funding economic development in the seven focus areas: the State Street corridor; the Cypress Street corridor; Birch Street from Walnut to Broad streets; the area known as Millers Hill, on the eastern border between the borough and the township; the Ways Lane area in Kennett Township; the former NVF property, a nearly 24-acre vacant industrial site in the borough; and the area on the west side of Mill Road in the township. Hutchins said a meeting would likely be scheduled in July for the public to review the study.

Hutchins expressed disappointment that the Memorial Day Parade was cancelled because of a stormy weather forecast that didn’t materialize. She explained that the parade’s chairman started receiving calls the day before from marching units that were cancelling because they didn’t want their instruments or uniforms getting wet. “He was pressured to make that decision,” Hutchins explained.

After some discussion, Borough Council unanimously voted to begin using PassportParking, a cellphone parking app that is free to download. Scalise said that motorists would pay a 25-cent convenience fee for the ability to use a credit card, money that would defray the borough’s $250 charge per month. “At most, it could cost $3,000 a year if no one uses it,” Scalise said.

He added that other options, such as kiosks, would be more expensive and that merchants would have the opportunity to pay for shoppers’ parking under the program, which is being used in West Chester.

Councilman Jamie Mallon raised some concerns about the potential for additional credit-card fees, but he ultimately supported the initiative because the borough would have the opportunity to discontinue the service if it didn’t work as well as hoped.

“If we don’t like it, we can bail,” Maffei noted.

Council also agreed to approve six recommendations from the Historic Architecture Review Board, most regarding replacement fences or signs, and they authorized advertisements for four public hearings on ordinance changes, all on July 5. The proposals are available on the public Dropbox, which can be accessed at http://www.kennettsq.org.

Councilman Wayne Braffman explained that the council is working to improve communication by providing residents with as much information as it can in advance of public meetings.

During public comment, resident John Thomas expressed frustration with what he viewed as the council’s failure to get questions answered before taking action, citing the discussion of the mobile parking app as an example. He said parking continues to be a huge problem that isn’t being addressed proactively during the land development process.

“If you don’t have enough parking, you shouldn’t be able to do it,” he said, adding that overflow parking from The Creamery adversely impacted the neighborhood over the weekend.

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