St. Mary’s Library Director Michael Blackwell points out a feature of the new library as Public Works and Transportation Director George Erichsen looks on.

Leonardtown, MD — The Town of Leonardtown has removed a potential roadblock in the way of a new library and senior center in town. The Leonardtown Planning Commission Aug. 15 unanimously approved a concept plan for the new library and Garvey Senior Center at the county-owned Hayden Farm property. And the town council, with one dissenting vote at its Aug. 8 meeting, ruled that the proposed project is in keeping with the spirit of the annexation agreement that brought the 141-acre property into town.

When the Hayden Farm was annexed into the town, the agreement included a county plan that called for an elementary sch0ool, middle school, Early Childhood Education Center and a park on the property. Then during a contentious process, the county picked the Hayden Farm property over a site near downtown Leonardtown for the project. The Early Childhood Education Center was eliminated due to space considerations

Leonardtown Mayor Daniel Burris and Councilmen Hayden Hammett and Thomas Coombs were vocal in their support for placing the library on a donated piece of land adjacent to Tudor Hall Farm, a large tract of land that will eventually be developed. Council members Leslie Roberts and Roger Mattingly were equally vocal in support of Hayden Farm. Councilman Jay Mattingly remained neutral because he works for the county.

When the county eventually decided on the Hayden Farm for the combined library/senior center, some county officials quietly expressed concern that the annexation agreement could wind up being a stumbling block. But when it came up for a council decision, Burris observed that libraries were under the education article of the state code and were in fact education facilities. So, even though he strongly disagreed with the site decision, Burris said he felt that the spirit of the annexation agreement had been followed.

Hammett was not so congenial. “I believe it would be a major change in the annexation agreement,” he said, noting that he was on the planning commission that approved the original agreement. He noted the importance to the town’s citizens of having the library in the center of town.

But Mattingly countered that the approved library/senior center site was also in town and adjacent to the town’s largest housing development, Leonard Grant, and conveniently next to the new Captain Walter Francis Duke Elementary School.
When the vote came up Hammett was the sole dissenter.

The unanimous approval by the town planning commission came after a presentation by the project’s architect Antonio Rebelo of the Grimm and Parker firm of Calverton, MD and county’s Director of Public Works and Transportation George Erichsen.

Erichsen explained that some administrative staff of the Office on Aging would remain in the existing center so that as much space in the new 48,000-square-foot facility could be devoted to programs. He said there would be a large shared conference/meeting room to avoid duplication and open more space for programs.

The planners questioned the brick façade. Commission member Jack Candela said the building looked less traditional and more modern to him, perhaps out of character for the town. The architect explained that glass was used to create light-filled program spaces, but still the façade was 75 percent brick and only 25 percent glass.

There also were concerns about the lack of a covered entrance in front of the building for patron drop-off.

But in the end Erichsen and the architect convinced the planners that the collaborative effort among the agencies, the Library Board of Trustees and the Garvey Center Advisory Board had come up with something that everyone agreed on.

Members of the two boards along with Library Director Michael Blackwell, Office on Aging Director Lori Jennings-Harris and Recreation and Parks Director Brian Loewe packed the town meeting room for the presentation. There was a round of applause after the commission vote.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com