STONE HARBOR — Stone Harbor’s $6 million library may not be on the beachfront after all.
A special committee organized to select a site announced Tuesday afternoon that it recommends locating the library at 93rd Street and Second Avenue instead of the beachfront property as originally been planned.
But even the committee was divided, with council members Judith Davis-Dunhour and Joselyn Rich preferring the Second Avenue location and Barry Mastrangelo favoring the 95th Street beachfront location.
Taxpayers contribute $1.3 million in library taxes to the county but currently have only a tiny library of their own in borough hall. Cape May County agreed to build the structure wherever the borough chose, but it is waiting for direction from the council.
Borough Council will decide the issue July 3 at its regular meeting; the full six-member council and mayor will vote.
The borough received about 370 emails commenting on where the library should be located, some of which came from nonresidents. Administrator Jill Gougher said that 55 percent of the emails favored the Second Avenue location, 42 percent preferred the beach location and 3 percent advocated for a third location on 97th Street and Seng Place.
That is in addition to two public meetings that attracted hundreds of attendees, which were held this spring.
A large crowd was at Tuesday’s meeting to hear the decision, but those who spoke were underwhelmed by the announcement.
Rich read the decision after recounting all the meetings the committee has had since being formed in January, but she did not give any details about why members reached their conclusion.
“It’s extremely disappointing not to get any explanation from the committee, just, ‘This is what we think,’” said resident Jon Ready.
In a series of documents compiled by the committee and acquired by The Press of Atlantic City through an Open Public Records Act request, the criteria for selecting the site included 10 different categories for evaluating. Listed were accessibility, visual quality, visibility, demographic patterns, site capacity, neighborhood compatibility, legal matters, utilities availability, environmental conditions and any related cost.
The beach location’s main issues were its effect on the parking lot that would surround it, impact on the Beach Patrol from additional traffic and any change it would create in beach access.
With the Second Avenue location, the committee considered possible effects on the nearby elementary school and that the site could otherwise be sold to create revenue.
There were no comments made supporting the recommendation, but there were a few against it.
“We have a chance to make a statement to this county, community, the whole thing, that we are the best,” said resident Dave Webster, who said he thought the beach site would be ideal.
Councilman Mastrangelo also voiced his opposition to the recommendation and said he still planned to vote for the beach site July 3.
“If we don’t build it on the beach, we won’t be ‘The Seashore at its Best’” he said, referring to the borough’s slogan. “We’ll be the seashore at its second best.”
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