Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to members of the Leonardtown Business Association by the group’s officers seeking support for the New Leonardtown Library Downtown location.
Dear Members of the LBA,
After careful consideration and deliberation, we, the officers of the Leonardtown Business Association (LBA), have unanimously reached the decision to strongly support Mayor Dan Burris in his efforts to have the new Leonardtown Library facility located in the heart of the town’s Core Business District.
The purpose of the LBA as stated in our by-laws is “to advance the economic, professional, cultural and civic welfare of the Town of Leonardtown, Maryland.” To quote the mayor, this is “an exciting endeavor that has vast potential to foster positive growth for the town.” We agree.
We further believe that the downtown location is also best in the long run for the county and the Library as well.
First, as the County seeks to diversify the local economy, one of most promising opportunities is the further development of tourism. One of the top county destinations is the Town of Leonardtown. To fulfill this promise, an active, thriving downtown is essential and to be candid, the town and the county need a stronger more energetic Leonardtown. And as a recent article from the Planning Commissioners Journal pointed out, “libraries can inject a healthy dose of vitality into downtowns and Main Streets.”
Second, while we don’t pretend to be experts on the detail of library services (though we are in complete agreement with the library board and staff that the renovation option of the Armory location is misguided), we can’t help but believe that a location that serves both a driving and a significant pedestrian clientele is better for the library. We can’t help believe but that a location that can serve both as a source of books and as a multi-use community center is best for the library (especially as the Digital Age expands and books become less used). And we strongly believe that having access to shops, restaurants, the courthouse and the new Waterfront Park – all just two blocks away – will make for a more pleasurable library visit and increase library patronage.
In addition, the downtown location is in adherence with Smart Growth and LEED Certification planning principles that are vital in preserving the unique St. Mary’s County asset that is Leonardtown.
In comparing the two options, we further believe the downtown location is superior, even when it comes to costs and logistics. The land for both sites is owned or being provided for free. The downtown site can be expanded to accommodate the plan as needed (including having more room for parking than the current site). The downtown site offers three access roads (compared to one for the Hayden site) with an additional access on the way with the planned Fenwick Street extension. In addition, the sewer service issue cuts in favor of the town location. And while the downtown site has been criticized as not being big enough for future expansion, our understanding is that a fourth library would be built before any expansion would be considered. Also, the Hayden site may put a strain on the current plans to build a middle school on the same parcel.
We are not alone in our opinion. The Maryland Department of Planning is on record stating the downtown (Lawrence Avenue) site would be the most advantageous for the state and county as well as the town.
It is for these reasons that we unanimously reached the decision to strongly support the efforts of Mayor Dan Burris to have the new Leonardtown Library facility located in the heart of the town’s Core Business District.
ACTION NEEDED: If you are in agreement, we and the Town need your help. Please contact the County and Town Commissioners, the Library Board, write Letters to the Editor and plan to attend the Public Hearing on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Staying silent on this critically important issue to Leonardtown’s future is not an option.
If you are not in agreement with our thinking, please contact us so we may hear your thoughts and address any concerns you may have.
Retaining the unique character of St. Mary’s County is of utmost importance to all of us and the future of downtown Leonardtown is at a crossroads. We look forward to further discussions and working together with all involved to provide a first-class Library and multi-use facility that will benefit all the citizens of St. Mary’s County.
Dan Norris, President
Joe Orlando, Vice President
Susan Kilroy, Treasurer
Randy Richie, Secretary