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Library dispute

To the Editor:

I have been following the problems that the Grosse Pointe Public Library is having with the Grosse Pointe Woods Planning Commission in getting approval, approval for a wonderful expansion of the crowded, depressing facility we call a library adjacent to Parcells Middle School.

There seem to be a number of issues that the planning commission is using as an excuse for delaying the construction of this long overdue addition to the service we, as Grosse Pointers, have come to expect.

First, there is an issue of traffic safety at the Mack/Vernier intersection. All of the citizens of the community, including the Grosse Pointe Public Library Board, the Grosse Pointe Public School System and the city of Grosse Pointe Woods share this concern. It is my understanding that a study by a traffic safety firm has been completed and the results of this study indicate that the proposed construction, along with the retiming of the light at this intersection will make the present situation at this intersection better and not worse.

I have also had the pleasure of discussing the situation with Traffic Safety Officer Beghin of Grosse Pointe Woods, who indicates that she is satisfied with the responsiveness that the library architects have had in incorporating the city's concerns on the matter. If this is correct, who is the planning commission to question the results and implementation of the recommendations presented in this collaborative effort?

Second, there is an issue about the required setback of the building. It is my understanding that the latest revised plan has accommodated this concern by moving the proposed building so that it extends no further to the sidewalk than the existing library. If that is the case, and the traffic safety experts see no detrimental problems created by this location, what right does the planning commission have to deny the citizens of our community the largest library we can afford?

Third, I understand there is a concern about a large window that will face a wonderful courtyard being created because it does not have the desired "Colonial gingerbread." If the members of the planning commission would spend some time in our present dismal library and also visit the Central Library, they would realize the importance of large expanses of glass in the interior environment of the building. The icing on the cake of their objection to this glass is that you will never see it from the street.

Fourth, there is an issue about the design of the building and the fact that it does not have the Colonial gingerbread in its design that is selectively applied by the planning commission on building plans approved for construction. All that any resident of this community has to do is drive by the CVS Pharmacy and Farmer Jack buildings to realize that half-baked "Colonial" architecture is worse than well-done architecture of any period.

Perfect examples of the planning commission's selectively applying the Colonial requirement in the community are the Summit Oral Surgery and the Koueiter Jewelry buildings. Neither of these buildings are Colonial, yet both are examples of sound architecture that definitely enhance Mack Avenue and our community.

If there was any situation where the logic of the Colonial requirement should have been applied, it was to these two new structures, yet it was ignored in favor of sound architecture that was an asset to Mack Avenue. Why should any different tact be taken in the review of a facility that everyone in the Pointes (not just Grosse Pointe Woods) will enjoy for decades to come?

The planning commission has a responsibility to review plans for buildings to assure that they blend with the adjoining buildings and create a welcome addition to the community. I think anyone who drives by Grosse Pointe South High School and compares the beautiful architecture of the original school to the library addition can realize that bad planning in not making adjoining buildings congruent in their architecture solves no end other than creating visual pollution to our community. The planning commission will be creating the same eyesore at Parcells except in reverse, as they want a Colonial building visually attached to a modernist structure.

No architect in his right mind would design a structure with it visually "battling" its adjoining structure, and doing so not only disrespects the architecture of the original building, but also creates an eyesore for the community.

The planning commission also has the responsibility of making sure that its decisions do not negatively impact the values of the residences and the business district in our community. Every day that this project is delayed means higher costs in its construction and will cause the deletion of one (or many) of the wonderful amenities in the plan as it exists today.

One has only to take a drive over to the Bloomfield Hills Public Library on Lone Pine and Telegraph to see a wonderful facility that a whole community can enjoy and be proud to finance. Why shouldn't Grosse Pointers be able to enjoy that same level of learning potential and have the result of their tax dollars maximized?

As a resident of Grosse Pointe Woods and a business owner on Mack Avenue for over 30 years, I urge all the residents of the Pointes to voice their displeasure to the Grosse Pointe Woods Planning Commission and the city administrators, either by mail at 20259 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods 48236; Fax, (313) 343-2785; e-mail, cityadmin@gpwmi.us, or by showing up at the planning commission meeting discussing the revised design on Jan. 28 at the Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall.

If there was ever a time when the entire community will suffer as a result of an outcome at a single meeting it is now. Please take the time to tell Grosse Pointe Woods what you think is best for you, your children, your property values and the future viability of our community.

Ahmed V. Ismail

Grosse Pointe Woods

Ahmed V. Ismail
January 16, 2003

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