Gettysburg Council aims to help library stay in the borough

The Adams County Library System hopes to keep a branch in the Borough of Gettysburg. Similarly, the borough council seems committed to making that happen.

At their workshop on Monday, council members expressed support for a zoning text amendment that will allow the library to build on the United Lutheran Seminary campus on the borough’s western border. Library attorney Richard Thrasher told the council the property is the library’s last option in the borough.

The Adams County Library System plans to move its Gettysburg branch to the United Lutheran Seminary campus.

History

For about a decade, the Adams County Library System has attempted to leave its building on Baltimore Street. Library officials have cited an aging building, poor layout, non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and lack of parking as the move’s driving factors. The Adams County Library System’s Gettysburg branch is in the borough’s former post office. Renovation costs would match the price of a new building without solving all of the problems, Executive Director Laura Goss said previously.

The library and the borough previously explored building a branch in the Gettysburg Rec Park. However, grants the park received mandate the land be used for recreational use. 

Borough Solicitor Harry Eastman said the borough could argue a library provides recreation, but the state would likely interpret it differently. If the borough breaks the grant rules, it would be required to repay the state every grant with 10 percent interest. Exact figures are unknown, Council President Matthew Moon said, but the borough estimates they would owe “hundreds of millions of dollars”

Future

The library is under an agreement to purchase a parcel of land on the seminary campus. The property is located near the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County. It includes the seminary’s Aberly, Heiges, and Stuempfle Halls, which will be demolished. 

One hurdle, Thrasher said, is the land is zoned institutional which does not include libraries as a permitted use. Part of the property is in Cumberland Township and is also zoned institutional, but Cumberland zoning permits institutional use. Thrasher asked the borough to amend its current zoning ordinance to allow libraries in the institutional zone.

“I think a text amendment would not do any serious violence to our existing ordinance because, frankly, there is a library on the site right now,” Thrasher said, referring to the seminary’s library, which is allowed as an accessory structure.

Response

Before approaching the council, Thrasher said he visited the borough’s planning commission. Thrasher said the commission was receptive to the change but preferred the council initiate the process. Planning Commission Chair Charles Strauss verified Thrasher’s account of the meeting.

Moon said the council plans to tackle a borough-wide rezoning initiative this year and current proposals call for a library to be a permitted use on the parcel. Thrasher said the borough’s timeline for enacting the new zoning law does not match the library’s plans. The library and seminary hope to settle in May, he added.

Several council members expressed their desire to support the library by enacting the text amendment to the current ordinance.

“It is in our best interest to facilitate keeping the library in the borough,” Moon said.

Next steps

The borough will discuss the matter further at its February business meeting on Feb. 12. If they decide to formally initiate the process, the borough planning commission and Adams County Department of Planning will be required to review and provide comments.

If those steps end up in the library’s favor, the borough will be required by law to hold a public hearing. Then, the council can vote on the proposal.

Thrasher expressed appreciation for the council’s support. He acknowledged the required review process may make a May settlement challenging but added he believes the Seminary is willing to amend their original agreement.

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​Alex J. Hayes, Editor, has spent almost two decades in the Adams County news business. He is heavily involved in the community through his volunteer roles at the Rotary Club of Gettysburg, Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, United Way of Adams County, and Healthy Adams County. Alex is also a freelance writer for several other publications in South Central Pennsylvania.
Alex encourages readers to contact him at ahayes83@gmail.com.

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Steve Niebler
Steve Niebler
3 months ago

The Borough would need to pay back “hundreds of millions of dollars?” I don’t think that’s accurate. Millions maybe but not hundreds of millions.

Steve Niebler
Steve Niebler
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex J. Hayes

My comment should have been more clear. I’m sure it was reported correctly. I believe the Borough officials are overstating their case. I’d never doubt Alex Hayes’ accuracy.

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