Buellton approves library retrofit of Willemsen House

Rather than fund the construction of a new library facility from scratch, the Buellton City Council recently greenlit plans to retrofit a historic site to become the city’s next public library.

The proposed project—for the Willemsen House on Dairyland Road, adjacent to River View Park—was approved with a 4-1 vote during the council’s last meeting of April. The City Council was originally set to decide on the project in February but agreed to table the vote until researching whether building a library from the ground up would be less expensive than a retrofit.

click to enlarge Buellton approves library retrofit of Willemsen House
Screen shot from Buellton’s Staff Report
SEAL OF APPROVAL The proposed budget and design for a new library and gathering space—with special meeting rooms for clubs and other groups—on Dairyland Road in Buellton was approved by the City Council at the end of April.

Buellton’s city staff brought the estimated costs to the April 27 meeting. The cost estimate for the retrofit is $1.4 million, while the ballpark cost for a new building ranges between $1.8 million and $6.7 million, according to the staff report.

After city staff’s presentation, the vote to move the retrofit proposal forward would have been unanimous if the cost difference had changed Councilmember Hudson Hornick’s stance against the proposed location for the project.

“I am supportive of this project going forward, but I do have very large concerns about all the things that we’re putting in a residential neighborhood,” said Hornick, who voiced his concern about the planned meeting rooms—intended for various clubs and other groups to use—for the facility and the number of visitors the amenity would bring to the River View Park area.

“We’re going to have a serious traffic problem,” said Hornick, who argued that street parking in the River View Park neighborhood would become congested, even with a designated parking area for library visitors.

“I know that we plan on having people parked down below, but, having said that, people are going to take the path of least resistance—they’re going to park in front of the property, they’re going to park in front of people’s houses,” Hornick said. “It’s going to happen.”

Hornick also said he believed the planned inclusion of meeting rooms at the proposed site could cause unwanted distractions between users of the rooms and readers in the library.

“These meeting rooms will have people come congregate for a yoga class, or whatever else,” Hornick said. “I don’t know if these designs incorporate soundproofing for the said yoga classes, or whatever else, adjacent to people reading in the library.”

Councilmember David Silva said that the specific uses of the new library should be saved for a different discussion and voiced his support in approving the retrofit proposal.

“I think that structurally, it makes sense; financially it makes sense. When it comes to how to have more books, how to have better hours of operation, I don’t think that’s for us to solve at this time,” Silva said. “This is something that I think we owe our community. We owe our community an amenity investment.” 

“I think it’s good for us to show that we are serious about investing in our library and what that means to everyone in the community,” Silva added. 

—Caleb Wiseblood

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