James Bay library getting closer to reality

The City of Victoria has approved a 7,500-square foot neighbourhood library branch in James Bay, in theory.

The City of Victoria has approved a 7,500-square foot neighbourhood library branch in James Bay, in theory.

During budget discussions on Friday, council voted unanimously to approve the branch at the maximum size recommended by the Greater Victoria Public Library Board and the James Bay Community Association based on public feedback received a few months ago.

“It is a 20-year-old promise for some sort of community amenity in James Bay,” said Marg Gardiner, president of the James Bay Community Association. “This would provide more of a public realm place.”

She added the branch could potentially be multi-purpose, providing a full range of services to the community.

As part of the 1994 Victoria Accord, the province and the city agreed to establish a vision and plan for Capital Park and other small parcels of land located behind the legislature, which would include community amenities such as a library.

An agreement between developer Jawl Properties and the city, allows the city to lease space for the library.

But council hasn’t given the entire project the green light yet and are only supporting it in theory.

Council would have to potentially lease the space for an estimated $300,000 a year (at market rent), with roughly $110,000 in staffing costs, which would be shared between the municipalities on the library board. Some of the cost would have to come out of the 2017 budget.

Most councillors supported the theory of a library branch to serve residents of James Bay, but were reluctant to do so, due to a lack of information and the size.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday said he wished the information was presented in a different way to allow councillors a few days to consider.

“I feel this is out of the blue. We need a bigger picture of what 7,500 square feet looks like. I was supportive when they passed rezoning, but with this motion, I’m a little less clear about it at this point,” he said.

Coun. Geoff Young said it might be useful to look at other areas where the library could be built, so the city could act as an owner rather than a tenant.

Coun. Pam Madoff spoke in favour of the motion, citing all the children who would benefit from the library.

“It’s not just responding to an opportunity that’s popped up, it’s been on the books since 1993 as part of the Victoria Accord,” Madoff said. “All this would allow for is just to be able to continue having conversations with the developer . . . There’s no risk, it’s just saying this is something we’re willing to look at.”

The Emily Carr branch on Blanshard Street is approximately 3,500 square feet and the central library on Broughton Street is roughly 45,000 square feet.