Jones Library garden article opposed

  • The David Chapin Kinsey Memorial Garden behind Jones Library in Amherst. JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

AMHERST — Expressing concern that a petition warrant article aimed at saving the Kinsey Memorial Garden could derail renovation and expansion of the Jones Library, the Select Board will ask Town Meeting next month to dismiss the article.

After a 45-minute discussion on the petition brought by Carol Pope, who designed the garden and planted many of its plants, the board unanimously agreed that Town Meeting should not consider its contents.

“My thinking is not wanting to constrain the design process at this stage,” said board member Constance Kruger, who made the motion to dismiss.

She added that the garden would not be lost during the project.

“I don’t see the change as destruction, I see the change as change,” Kruger said.

Select Board member Andrew Steinberg said the library brings people to Amherst center and its health and vitality is important to the community, which might be lost if the building project does not move forward.

The Select Board’s vote comes after the trustees for the Jones Library previously issued a statement that the article’s effort to preserve the memorial garden “in its entirety” might not be possible.

Library Director Sharon Sharry told the Select Board that she and the trustees value the garden and all green spaces on the library property, but that approving the measure would unduly constrain the building plan that will be designed by Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston.

But Pope said the garden offers a unique experience downtown, and that town officials should see the importance of the green space and the destination the garden has become.

“The possibility of such a loss is already being expressed as a huge disappointment by a considerable number of Jones Library patrons, and the public alike,” Pope said.

In recent years the garden has lacked adequate care, which prompted her to have the article call for creating a committee of horticultural experts that would oversee it.

$30 million

Sharry said the architects are designing a building that the town can afford, but that will also serve residents and visitors for the next quarter century. She is pegging the “sweet spot” at around a $30 million project, with a 67,000-square-foot building.

This would mean being funded by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and receiving support from Town Meeting.

If the existing 50,000-square-foot building is renovated at a $20 million cost, this project would not be funded by the state, Sharry said, but if the library doubled in size, at a cost of $60 million, that likely would not be approved by Town Meeting.

Based on the current schedule, the plan is to submit the building project to the state in January 2017, and then bring a project for approval to Town Meeting in May 2017, with construction, at the earliest, in spring 2018

“So we do have time to plan green spaces,” Sharry said.

Sharry said that there is no possibility the library would use the the former TD Bank building on Amity Street or the Central Fire Station on North Pleasant Street as part of the project.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.