Petitioners hope new Chemainus library will be built on former firehall site

A petition is circulating to promote building the library on Willow Street, not the parking lot of Waterwheel Park.

A group of Chemainus residents, organizations and businesses are hoping a petition will help change the municipality’s decision to build a single-level library on the parking lot at Waterwheel Park.

The petition, which had garnered about 600 signatures as of early this week, requests that the Municipality of North Cowichan and the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) select the former firehall site on Willow Street for the new library to be built.

“The petition is reflecting a large number of people’s feelings that the new library should not be located in Waterwheel Park,” said Chemainus Chamber of Commerce president Peter Matthews. “The parking lot is viewed as a town square for Chemainus and is the site of many, many weekly, monthly and annual events.With the library on there, it would impinge on that taking place.”

The group, which includes representatives from the Chemainus Museum and the Chemainus Seniors Drop-In Centre, has formed an ad-hoc committee to explore alternative building sites. In the meantime, they are hoping to gather at least 1,000 petition signatures.

“We are proceeding with that process and will be following the correct steps to introduce an alternative location for the library,” Matthews said. “It’s something that the Chemainus Advisory Committee, the Chamber of Commerce and the municipality will want to respond to.”

Murray Schafer of the seniors centre said being across the street from the park, he often sees the parking lot full.

“This summer there’s been so many buses coming in and events,” he noted.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said council voted in favour of the parking lot because the firehall had previously been identified as a potential site for a multi-use building, and that incorporating both a library and a multi-use building onto the same site would pose a lengthier and more complex planning process.

“VIRL is looking for a single story standalone building, that’s their preference,” he added. “It was seen as a longer process requiring more money for the municipal portion of the building.”

He added that there was a desire amongst council members to create some new energy in Waterwheel Park.

The next step in the process will be a public meeting hosted by VIRL and North Cowichan to discuss the services and layout of the new library. That meeting is scheduled for Oct. 11.

As to what impact the petition could have on council’s decision, Lefebure declined comment.

“I can’t tell you what council will do tomorrow … council has the ability to reverse its position, I’m not saying that it will, I can only tell you where council is at today,” he said. “Only time will tell.”

Copies of the petition are available for signing at the Chemainus Chamber of Commerce.