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Reactions Mixed on Proposal

Neighbors of Dolley Madison Library express concern about the impact of upcoming renovations.

Last Thursday, Jan. 11, as Cheryl Patten was pulling out of her driveway on Ingleside Avenue, she was forced to hit the breaks as another driver also pulled onto Ingleside. The driver was exiting Dolley Madison Library.

"The driver pulled out without even looking," said Patten, who has lived in McLean for 21 years. "The people who come to the library don't think of Ingleside as a residential road."

Later that evening, Patten attended a public meeting at the library, at which the proposed design for the upcoming Dolley Madison library renovations were presented. The library is due for renovations, having been built in 1967. The renovations will include expanding the building from its current 10,600 square feet to approximately 24,700 square feet. In addition, the Dranesville District Supervisor's office will be moved to the library from its current location at the McLean Government Center on Balls Hill Road.

While many residents are pleased about the update of their community library, some of its closest neighbors have concerns about the impact of construction and the increased use of the facility that will inevitably come as a result of the renovations. Although she loves the library, Patten is one such neighbor.

"If you build it, as you do, they will come — and they do — and we're tired of it," said Patten at Thursday's meeting. "I love the library ... but at every single one of these meetings I'm going to raise a flag because I'm concerned, and I want to be heard."

ONE FLAG raised by Patten at Thursday's meeting was her fear that the new and larger library will contribute to what many Ingleside residents already consider a dangerous and burdensome amount of traffic flow on their street. A previous traffic calming study of Ingleside Avenue did not yield the minimum requirements for the installation of traffic calming measures such as speed humps and raised pedestrian crosswalks. However, at Thursday's meeting, Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois said that she would be more than happy to arrange another traffic calming study for the residents.

"I would be willing to listen to people who live in the affected area," said DuBois.

DuBois also offered to arrange for police to erect a digital speed sign in the area during times of heavy traffic.

"But you have to tell me the times when you want them there," said DuBois.

Patten said that while she is appreciative of such gestures, they still do nothing to diminish the actual amount of traffic. In addition, she expressed concern about the potential expansion of the neighboring McLean Community Center.

"What we experience is that it's just one domino after another, and you know, enough already," said Patten. "What is essentially being created is a massive county project. We're becoming an asphalt village here, and as a resident, I can tell you that it's pretty disturbing — especially when we don't find out about it until a meeting like this, and then we're just being told that it's done."

DuBois said that the community center expansion is being considered right now, and may not happen at all.

"Unfortunately the community center has no idea what they want to do ... there are a lot of unknowns with the community center, so I'm not sure we're in a position to wait," said DuBois.

DuBois added that should the community center want to expand, it would have to get the majority of residents in the special tax district to agree to a tax increase.

"Remember, everybody has to agree to take on the debt, and that is a hard sell," said DuBois.

Several residents also inquired as to whether the community center's Teen Center will be moved from its current location in the Old Firehouse to Ingleside Avenue.

"It's not necessarily something I would consider unless the community supported it," said DuBois. "There is no way I'm going to say that the Firehouse has to be removed unless the whole community supports it — that's the time for public dialogue big time."

FAIRFAX COUNTY contracted architectural firm Bowie Gridley Architects to design the Dolley Madison Library renovations. The company has experience designing libraries, and has handled several local projects — including the Huffington Library at the Madeira School, the Hurd Sports Center at the Madeira School and The Langley School.

Tim Lovett, a principal with Bowie Gridley, presented the company's proposed design at last week's community meeting. Lovett said that a survey had shown overwhelming community attachment to the front facade of the library building, and his firm had taken such input into account.

"The entrance to the building is going to remain as it is," said Lovett. "We heard loud and clear that the front door is something that the community cherished."

Lovett said that in general, his firm made an effort to stay in line with the current design of the building.

"We didn't want to compete with the existing architecture — we kind of wanted to support it," said Lovett.

In addition, the new library will be a so-called "green building," which means that it will be environment-friendly. The new storm water management facility that will be constructed as part of the renovations is designed to help alleviate the flooding and drainage problems that the site has had in recent years.

"Right now there is severe erosion because the volume of water creates tremendous velocity, and there is tremendous degradation of the banks there," said Katayoon Shaya, project manager in the Building and Design branch of the Fairfax County Planning and Design division. "What we're doing is improving the outfall."

Outdoor lighting at the new library will also be designed for minimum impact on the surrounding area. The parking lot will have full cut-off light fixtures which have a rounded head to eliminate light leakage and subsequent light pollution.

CONSTRUCTION of the library is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2007, with estimated completion in spring of 2009. The library will be closed during renovations, but library services will be provided in temporary trailers that will be located in the parking lot of the McLean Community Center. Access to McLean Central Park will be maintained during the construction.

On March 22, the library renovation project will be considered by the Fairfax County Planning Commission. However, DuBois said that the March hearing is solely for the purpose of approving the relocation of her office to the library building.

"The public hearing in March is because there will be a new use added to the building," said DuBois.

Cheryl Patten inquired as to how the McLean Community Center would handle the overflow of parking that will most likely occur with the temporary closure of the library's parking lot, and the loss of several spaces to the temporary library trailers. DuBois made a promise to investigate the logistics of construction and get back to Patten and her fellow neighbors prior to the March hearing.

"There are obviously some operating issues that we need to talk to the contractor about," said DuBois. "I understand what you're talking about ... what do we do to minimize the impact on neighbors, and this is legitimate. We have to talk to the contractor to discuss when he works, and how he comes in and how he comes out."

Although some of Patten's fellow neighbors also expressed concern about construction adding to the already existing hazards caused by the high volume of traffic on Ingleside, other residents are more accepting of the project.

"What you do is you build a sidewalk and you teach your kids to stay on them," said Tim Grady, who is also a neighbor of the library. "We can't be awash in negativity over something that ultimately by God is going to increase your property value."