Council’s cooperation on library gratifying

  • The Greenfield City Councilor voted in favor to approve a deal for a new library and commercial zoning changes Wednesday night at Greenfield High School. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Published: 3/26/2019 8:19:42 AM

Before there were senior centers, before community centers, before teen centers, there were libraries, which in many ways serve those same constituencies and their needs and have for decades.

Greenfield’s public library for more than a century has been a central cultural and educational resource and a social gathering place for all the city’s residents. It has been one of the reasons our neighbors from the hilltowns come to Greenfield. It’s always been more than just a repository for books – and maybe this is more important in this digital age, not less. You can’t get everything free online. The library offers all its services in person, a form of interaction that these days is being given too little value. Mother Goose on the Loose online? Not likely.

So, we were gratified to see the Greenfield City Council finally agree to build a new 21st century library downtown, using up to $10 million in local property taxes and about the same from a one-time-only offer from the state. The current library building was designed to be a home 200 years ago and just doesn’t suit today’s needs – as beautiful an architectural antique as it is.

The journey to this decision was difficult and required a difficult quid-pro-quo of library for more potential commercial development, especially along French King Highway. Those concerned about such things have debated whether the city should relax its restrictions on retail growth along the French King and on big box stores and offices. Ultimately, those who saw the library as an important investment in the city’s future and those who saw the need to encourage more development edged toward the center to win the votes needed on the 13-member City Council to invest in the city both ways.

We were happy to see both pro-growth and pro-library camps compromise in the interest of the city’s future. For how long have we lamented the governmental gridlock that tribal partisanship has caused in our nation’s capital, where extremism, left and right, liberal and conservative, has made “compromise” a dirty word and kept us from gaining ground in any direction.

It was encouraging to see our city councilors took these final difficult decisions about library services, tax burdens and economic development so seriously. There was lots of feeling and nostalgia behind some votes but also some crunchy fiscal analysis and forward thinking behind others.

And others still have signaled they will continue to carry this discussion of how to grow the city’s tax base and jobs by revising the city’s zoning in other ways to make our home a better place, with up-to-date rules to foster retail, housing and industrial growth in smart ways. We laud and support those plans of the council’s Economic and Development Committee and the Planning Board.

While we supported the reasonable outcome the city’s leaders finally reached in this library-for-growth deal, we were more impressed by their willingness to honestly and openly debate the issue and eventually to come together on a compromise that allowed the council to serve the city’s needs.


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